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galaxy 

61 SCIENCE FICTION 







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OCTOBER 1951 
354 

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galaxy 

SCIENCE FICTION 



Editor-in-Chief 

VERA CERUTTI 

Editor H. L. GOLD 

Assistant Editor 

EVYLYN PAIG 

Art Director 

W. I. VAN DER POEL 

Advertising Manager 

JOHN ANDERSON 



OCTOBER, 1951 



Vol. 3, No. 1 



GALAXY Science Fiction 
is published monthly by 
Galaxy Publishing Corpo- 
ration. Main offices: 421 
Hudson Street, New York 
14, N. Y. 35c per copy. 
Subscriptions: (12 cop- 
ies) 33.50 per year in the 

United States, Canada, 
Mexico, South and Cen- 
tral America and U.S. 
Possessions. Elsewhere 
$4.50. Entered as second- 
class matter at the Post 
Office, New York, N. Y. 
Copyright, 1951, by Gal- 
axy Publishing Corpora- 
tion. Bernard Kautman, 

president. Vincent Paris!, 
treasurer. Vera Cerutti, 
secretary. All rights, 
including translation, re- 
served. All material sub- 
mitted must be accompanied 
by self-addressed stamped 
envelopes. The publisher 
assumes no responsibility 

for unsolicited material. 
All stories printed in this 
magazine are fiction, and 
anysimilarity between char- 
acters and actual persons 
is coincidental. 



CONTENTS 

NOVELETS 

THE C-CHUTE 

by Isaac Asimov 3 

AMBITION 

by William L. Bade 52 

SHORT STORIES 

PLEASANT DREAMS 

by Ralph Robin 42 

SPACEMEN DIE AT HOME 

by Edward W. Ludwig 75 

THE CELESTIAL HAMMERLOCK 

fay Donald Co/Wfl 91 

BOOK-LENGTH SERIAL-lnstallment 2 

THE PUPPET MASTERS 

by Robert A. Heinlein 1 00 

FEATURES 

EDITOR'S PAGE 

by H. L Gold 1 

GALAXY'S FIVE STAR SHELF 

by Groff Conklin 87 



Printed in the U. S. A. 



Reg. U. S. Paf. Off. 



Use Before Shaking 



IT has been suggested that hun- 
dreds of urgent topics are be- 
seeching the editorial pages 
of, among other things, science 
fiction magazines. 

I find it surprising. If a science 
fiction magazine has a viewpoint 
— a dangerous thing, tending to 
harden into glaucoma — it should 
be apparent in the stories. The 
ability to put his maunderings 
into type may be tempting to an 
editor, but the fact is that they 
are immeasurably stronger in 
stories than in solid pages of 
rhetoric. They are also less dull. 

However, since a statement of 
policy is closely related to science 
fiction, here it is: 

GALAXY is for democracy, 
human decency and dignity, 
peace, progress, scientific ad- 
vance, better standards of living, 
education, international and in- 
tergroup relations, and individual 
awareness. 

That last point may be con- 
fusing, and I'm glad to have a 
chance to explain. Through sub- 
mitted stories and letters, and 
articles in fan magazines, IVe en- 
countered instances of anger so 
disproportionate to cause that the 
vehicles actually amount to case 
histories. Some of the anger- was 
directed at our subscription de- 



partment when we were getting 
organized and some errors were 
inevitable; at my rejecting stories 
that were not suitable for one 
reason or another; at editorials 
stating goals, and ads declaring 
that GALAXY is a good maga- 
zine, which were construed as 
bragging. 

This is not to excuse any of the 
offending practices. Our sub de- 
partment is working out its prob- 
lems; for every reader who ob- 
jects to editorial discussion of 
aims, rubs and successes, there are 
literally hundreds who approve ; 
promotion, whether fortunately or 
unfortunately, is a necessity for 
3iiy product; and I could promise 
to buy all stories submitted, but 
I won't. 

Thus GALAXY is for indi- 
vidual awareness: A psychiatric 
axiom is that suicides in almost 
all cases want to kill someone 
else; anyone who attacks an in- 
animate object or a distant, un- 
known person is sore at somebody 
nearer home. 

To continue, however: 

GALAXY is against tyranny of 
any sort whatever, human de- 
gradation, inhuman war, repudia- 
tion of science or any other aspect 
of progress, lower standards of 
living, education, international 



USE IEFORE SHAKING 



1 



and intergroup relations, individ- 
ual unawareness, and bad stories. 

Note that GALAXY is against 
inhuman wars. Some wars must 
be fought, which is a controversial 
statement. Passive resistance may 
win under certain conditions, 
though I doubt if it can against a 
brutalized oppressor, but, passive 
or otherwise, it is still war. Hu- 
manity would be in even worse 
shape than it is if it had not 
fought its just wars. 

Matter of fact, the shape hu- 
manity is in is cause for worry, 
I believe, but not the kind of 
paralyzing terror that clutches 
science fiction writers in particu- 
lar, every time they think of it. 

A Pollyanna attitude would be 
silly. On the other hand, so is 

irrational fright. It's hard to recall 

many ages that didn't face what 
they regarded as imminent de- 
struction. Their threats were bar- 
barians, great plagues, sorcery in 

fill its fearful forms, uncheckable 
lire, flood, famine. Ours is mainly 
atomic and bacteriological war- 
fare, and cancer. 

Even assuming war must come, 
which is not a certainty, and that 
at will use the awful weapons that 
science has provided, just how 
bad would it be? 

Well, destroying the entire 
United States would take untold 
thousands of bombs. For the 
whole world — there isn't that 

much fissionable material. And 



remember that artificial radioac- 
tivity does not make areas unin- 
habitable for more than a matter 
of months, or a few years at the - 
very most. So no less than hun- 
dreds of millions of people would 
survive, and civilization safe- 
guarded. 

Nor, actually, is the individual 
prospect for survival bad, outside 
the big cities, maybe. 

However, radioactive and bio- 
logical warfare, like poison gas, 
is more likely not to be used for 
fear of reprisal. 

Cancer? Techniques now in use 
are very effective, and more are 
on their way. 

In any case, which would you 
prefer — the Black Plague, with 
no count ermeasures at all, or to- 
day's perils, with the enormous 
resources of laboratory and hos- 
pital? How much of our fear is 
internal, hung on atomic war and 
cancer, that in other ages would 
have clung to plagues and bar- 
barians? 

The opinions contained herein 
are not to be considered guaran- 
tees. Remember the hotheads 
mentioned earlier, who have their 

counterparts in the governments 
and armed forces of nations. But 
if logic means anything, mankind 
is in no greater danger than ifs 
been in throughout history— and 
with greater knowledge and tech- 
nology for protection. 

— H. L. GOLD 



6ALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



The C-Chute 



By ISAAC ASIMOV 



The spaceship had to be recaptured from the 



aliens, -which meant that somebody had to be 



m 

a hero. But who would that be • . • and why? 



EVEN ft*Hn the cabin into 
which he and the other 
passengers had been herd- 
ed, Colonel Anthony Windham 
could still catch the essence of 
the battle's progress. For a while, 
there was silence, no jolting, 
which meant the spaceships were 
fighting at astronomical distance 
in a duel of energy blasts and 



powerful force -field defenses. 

He knew that could have only 
one end. Their Earth ship was 
only an armed merchantman and 
his glimpse of the Kloro enemy 
just before he had been cleared 
off deck by the crew was suffi- 
cient to show it to be a light 
cruiser. 

And in less than half an hour. 



ustra ted by DAVID STONE 



THE C-CHUTE 



there came those hard little 
shocks he was waiting for. The 
passengers swayed back and forth 
as the ship pitched and veered, as 
though it were an ocean liner in 
a storm. But space was calm and 
silent as ever. It was their pilot 
sending desperate bursts of steam 
through the steam-tubes, so that 
by reaction the ship would be 
sent rolling and tumbling. It 
could only mean that the inevi- 
table had occurred. The Earth 
ship's screens had been drained 
and it no longer dared withstand 

a direct hit. 

Colonel Windham tried to 
steady himself with his aluminum 
cane. He was thinking that he 
was an old man; that he had 
spent his life in the militia and 
had never seen a battle; that now, 
with a battle going on around 
him, he was old and fat and lame 
and had no men under his com- 
mand. 

They would be boarding soon. 

those Kloro monsters. It was 
their way of fighting. They would 
be handicapped by spacesuits and 
their casualties would be high, 
but they wanted the Earth ship. 
Windham considered the passen- 

• 

gers. For a moment, he thought, 
if they were armed and I could 
lead them — 

He abandoned the thought. 
Porter was in an obvious state of 
funk and the young boy, Le- 
blanc, was hardly better. The 



Polyorketes brothers — dash it, he 
couldn't tell them apart — hud- 
dled in a corner speaking only to 
one another. Mullen was a dif- 
ferent matter. He sat perfectly 
erect, with no signs of fear or any 
other emotion in his face. But 
the man was just about five feet 
tall and had undoubtedly never 
held a gun of any sort in his 
hands in all his life. He could do 
nothing. 

And there was Stuart, with his 
frozen half-smile and the high- 
pitched sarcasm which saturated 
all he said. Windham looked side- 
long at Stuart now as Stuart sat 
there, pushing his dead- white 
hands through his sandy hair. 
With those artificial hands he 
was useless, anyway. 

Windham felt the shuddering 
vibration of ship-to-ship contact; 
and in five minutes, there was the 
noise of the fight through the 
corridors. One of the Polyorketes 
brothers screamed and dashed foi 
the door. The oth^r calleSf, "Ari- 
stides! Wait!" and hurried after. 

It happened ^o quickly. Ari- 

stides was out the door and into 
the corridor, running in brainless 
panic. A carbonizer glowed briefly 
and there was never even a 
scream. Windham, from the door- 
way, turned in horror at the 
blackened stump of what was 
left. Strange — a lifetime in uni- 
form and he had never before seen 
a man killed in violence. 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




THE C-CHUTE 



It took the combined force ef 
the rest to carry the other brother 
back struggling into the room. 

The noise of battle subsided. 

Stuart said, "That's it. They'll 
put a prize crew of two aboard 
and take us to one of their home 
planets. We're prisoners of war, 

naturally." 

"Only two of the Kloros will 
/ stay aboard?" ask^jl Windham, 
astonished. 

Stuart said, "It is their custom. 
Why do you ask, Colonel? Think- 
ing of leading a gallant raid to 
retake the ship?" 

Windham flushed. "Simply a 
point of information, dash it." 
But the dignity and tone of au- 
thority he tried to assume failed 
him, he knew. He was simply an 
eld man with a limp. 

And Stuart was probably right. 
He had lived among the Kloros 

and knew their ways. 

JOHN Stuart had claimed from 
the beginning that the Kloros 
were gentlemen. Twenty-four 
hours of imprisonment had 
passed, and now he repeated the 
statement as he flexed the fingers 
©f his hands and watched the 

• 

crinkles come and go in the soft 

artiplasm. 

He enjoyed the unpleasant re- 
actipn it aroused in the others. 
People were made to be punc- 
tured; windy bladders, all of 
them. And they had hands of the 



same stuff as their bodies. 

There was Anthony Windham, 
in particular- Colonel Windham, 
he called himself, and Stuart was 
willing to believe it. A retired 
colonel who had probably drilled 
a home guard militia on a village 
green, forty years ago, with such 
lack of distinction that he was 

• 

not called back to service in any 
capacity, even during the emer- 
gency of Earth's first interstellar 
war. 

"Dashed unpleasant thing to 
be saying about the enemy, Stu- 
art. Don't know that I like your* 

i 

attitude." Windham seemed to 
push the words through his clip- 
ped mustache. His head had been 
shaven, too, in imitation of the 
current military style, but now a 
gray stubble was beginning to 
show about a centered bald patch. 
His flabby cheeks dragged down- 
ward. That and the fine red lines 
on his thick nose gaW him a 
somewhat undone appearance, as 
though he had been wakened too 
suddenly and too early in the 
morning. 

Stuart said, "Nonsense. Just re- 
verse the present situation. Sup- 
pose an Earth warship had taken 
a Kloro liner. What do you think 
would have happened to any 
Kloro civilians aboard?" 

"Fm sure the Earth fleet would 
observe all the interstellar rules 
of war/* Windham said stiffly. 

"Except that there aren't any. 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



If we landed a prize crew on one 
of their ships, do you think we'd 
take the trouble to maintain a 
chlorine atmosphere for the bene- 
fit of the survivors; allow them to 

keep their non-contraband pos- 
sessions; give them the use of the 

most comfortable stateroom, et- 
cetera, etcetera, etcetera?" 

Ben Porter said, "Oh, shut up, 
for God's sake. If I hear your 
etcetera, etcetera once again, I'll 
go nuts." 

Stuart said, "Sorry!" He wasn't. 

Porter was scarcely responsi- 
ble. His thin face and beaky nose 
glistened with perspiration, and 
he kept biting the inside of his 
cheek until he suddenly winced. 
He put his tongue against the sore 
spot, which made him look even 
more clownish. 

Stuart was growing weary of 
baiting them. Windham was too 
flabby a target and Porter could 
do nothing but writhe. The rest 
were silent. Demetrios Polyor- 
ketes was off in a world of silent 
internal grief for the moment. He 
had not slept the night before, 
most probably. At least, when- 
ever Stuart woke to change his 
position — he himself had been 
rather restless — there had been 
Polyorketes* thick mumble from 
the next cot. It said many things, 
but the moan to which it re- 
turned over and over again was, 
"Oh, my brother!" 

He sat dumbly on his cot now, 



his red eyes rolling at the other 
prisoners out of his broad, 
swarthy, unshaven face. As Stu- 
art watched, his face sank into 
calloused palms so that only his 
mop of crisp and curly black 
hair could be seen. He rocked 
gently, but now that they were 
all awake, he made no sound. 

Claude Leblanc was trying, 
very unsuccessfully, to read a 
letter. He was the youngest of 
the six, scarcely out of college, 
returning to Earth to get mar- 
ried. Stuart had found him that 
morning weeping quietly, his 
pink and white face flushed and 
blotched as though it were a 
heartbroken child's. He was very 
fair, with almost a girl's beauty 
about his large blue eyes and full 
lips. Stuart wondered what kind 
of girl it was who had promised 
to be his wife. He had seen her 
picture. Who on the ship had 
not? She had the characterless 
prettiness that makes all pictures 
of fiancees indistinguishable. It 
seemed to Stuart that if he were 
a girl, however, he would want 
someone a little more pronoun- 
cedly masculine. 

That left only Randolph Mul- 

i 

len. Stuart frankly did not have 
the least idea what to make of 
him. He was the only one of the 
six that had been on the Arc- 
turian worlds for any length of 
time. Stuart, himself, for instance, 
had been there only long enough 



THE C-CHUTE 






to give a series of lectures on as- < 
tronautical engineering at the 
provincial engineering institute. 
Colonel Windham had been on 
a Cook's tour; Porter was trying 
to buy concentrated alien vege- 
tables for his canneries on Earth; 
and the Polyorketes brothers had 
attempted to establish themselves 
in Arcturus as truck farmers and, 
after two growing seasons, gave 
it up, had somehow unloaded at 
a profit, and were returning to 
Earth. 

Randolph Mullen, however, 
had been in the Arcturian system 
for seventeen years. How did voy- 
agers discover so much about one 
another so quickly? As far as 
Stuart knew, the little man had 
scarcely spoken aboard ship. He 
was unfailingly polite, always 
stepped to one side to allow an- 
other to pass, but his entire vo- 
cabulary appeared to consist 
only of "Thank you" and "Par- 
don me." Yet the word had gone 
around that this was his first trip 
to Earth in seventeen years. 

He was a little man, very pre- 
cise, almost irritatingly so. Upon 
awaking that morning, he had 

made his cot neatly, shaved, 
bathed and dressed. The habit of 
years seemed not in the least dis- 
turbed by the fact that he was a 
prisoner of the Kloros now. He 
was unobtrusive about it, it had 
to be admitted, and gave no im- 
pression of disapproving of the 



sloppiness of the others. He 
simply sat there, almost apolo- 
getic, trussed in his overconserva- 
tive clothing, and hands loosely 
clasped in his lap. The thin line 
of hair on his upper lip, far from 

adding character to his face, ab- 
surdly increased its primness. 

He looked like someone's idea 
of a caricature of a bookkeeper. 
And the queer thing about it all, 
Stuart thought, was that that was 

exactly what he was. He had no- 
ticed it on the registry — Ran- 
dolph Fluellen Mullen; occupa- 
tion, bookkeeper ; employers. 
Prime Paper Box Co.; 27 Tobias 
Avenue, New Warsaw, Arcturus 

II. 



a 



11/|R. Stuart?" 



Stuart looked up. It was 
Leblanc, his lower lip trembling 

slightly. Stuart tried to remember 
how one went about being gentle. 
He said, "What is it, Leblanc?" 
"Tell me, when will they let us 

go?" 

"How should I know?" 
"Everyone says you lived on a 
Kloro planet, and just now you 
said they were gentlemen." 

"Well, yes. But even gentlemen 
fight wars in order to win. Prob- 
ably, we'll be interned for the 

duration." 

"But that could be years! Mar- 
garet is waiting. She'll think I'm 

dead!" 

"I suppose they'll allow mes- 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



sages to be sent through once 
we're on their planet." 

Porter's hoarse voice sounded 
in agitation. "Look here, if you 
know so much about these devils, 
what will they do to us while 
we're interned? What will they 
feed us? Where will they get oxy- 
gen for us? They'll kill us, I tell 
you." And as an afterthought, 
"I've got a wife waiting for me, 
too," he added. 

But Stuart had heard him 
speaking of his wife in the days 
before the attack. He wasn't im- 
pressed. Porter's nail-bitten fin- 
gers were pulling and plucking 
at Stuart's sleeve. Stuart drew 
away in sharp revulsion. He 
couldn't stand those ugly hands. 

It angered him to desperation 

that such monstrosities should be 
real while his own white and 
perfectly shaped hands were only 
mocking imitations grown out of 
an alien latex. 

He said, "They won't kill us. 
If they were going to, they would 
have done it before now. Look, 
we capture Kloros too, you know, 
and it's just a matter of common 
sense to treat your prisoners de- 
cently if you want the other side 
to be decent to your men. They'll 
do their best. The food may not 
be very good, but they're better 
chemists than we are. It's what 
they're best at. They'll know ex- 
actly what food factors we'll need 
and how many calories. We'll 



live. They'll see to that." 

Windham rumbled, "You 
sound more and more like a 
blasted greenie sympathizer, Stu- 
art. It turns my stomach to hear 
an Earthman speak well of the 
green fellas the way you've been 
doing. Burn it, man, where's your 
loyalty?" 

"My loyalty's where it belongs. 
With honesty and decency, Re- 
gardless of the shape of the being 
it appears in." Stuart held up his 
hands. "See these? Kloros made 
them. I lived on one of their 
planets for six months. My hands 
were mangled in the conditioning 
machinery of my own quarters. I 
thought the oxygen supply they 
gave me was a little poor — it 
wasn't, by the way — and I tried 
making the adjustments on my 
own. It was my fault. You should 
never trust yourself with the ma- 
chines of another culture. By the 
-time someone among the Kloros 

could put on an atmosphere suit 
and get to me, it was too late to 
save my hands. 

"They grew these arti plasm 
things for me and operated. You 
know what that meant? It meant 
designing equipment and nutrient 
solutions that would work in oxy- 
gen atmosphere. It meant that 
their surgeons had to perform a 
delicate operation while dressed 
in atmosphere suits. And now 
I've got hands again." He laughed 
harshly* and clenched them into 



THE C-CHUTE 



» 



weak fists. "Hands- 

Windham said, "And you'd sell 
your loyalty to Earth for that?" 

"Sell my loyalty? You're mad. 
For years, I hated the Kloros for 
this. I was a master pilot on the 
Trans-Galactic Spacelines before 
it happened. Now? Desk job. Or 
an occasional lecture. It took me 
a long time to pin the fault on 
myself and to realize that the only 
role played by the Kloros was a 
decent one. They have their code 
of ethics, and it's as good as ours. 
If it weren't for the stupidity of 
some of their people — and, by 
God, of some of ours — we 
wouldn't be at war. And after it's 

over — " 

Polyorketes was on his feet. His 
thick fingers curved inward be- 
fore him and his dark eyes glit- 
tered. "I don't like what you say, 
mister." 

"Why don't you?" 

"Because you talk too nice 
about these damned green bas- 
tards. The Kloros were good to 
you, eh? Well, they weren't good 
to my brother. They killed him. I 
think maybe I kill you, you 
damned greenie spy." 

And he charged. 
■ Stuart barely had time to raise 
his arms to meet the infuriated 
farmer. He gasped out, "What 
the hell — " as he caught one wrist 
and heaved a shoulder to block 
the other which groped toward 

his throat. 



His artiplasm hand gave way. 
Polyorketes wrenched free with 
scarcely an effort. 

Windham was bellowing inco- 
herently, and Leblanc was calling 
out in his reedy voice, "Stop it! 
Stop it?" But it was little Mullen 
who threw his arms about the 
farmer's neck from behind and 
pulled with all his might. He was 
not very effective ; Polyorketes 
seemed scarcely aware of the lit- 
tle man's weight upon his back. 
Mullen's feet left the floor so that 
he tossed helplessly to right and 
left. But he held his grip and it 
hampered Polyorketes sufficiently 
to allow Stuart to break free long 
enough to grasp Windham's alu- 
minum cane. 

He said, "Stay away, Polyor- 
ketes." 

He was gasping for breath and 
fearful of another rush. The hol- 
low aluminum cylinder was 
scarcely heavy enough to accom- 
plish much, but it was better than 
having only his weak hands to 
defend himself with. 

Mullen had loosed his hold and 
was now circling cautiously, his 
breathing roughened and his 
jacket in disarray. 

Polyorketes, for a moment, did 
not move. He stood there, his 
shaggy head bent low. Then he 
said, "It is no use. I must kill 
Kloros. Just watch your tongue* 
Stuart. If it keeps on rattling too 
much, you're liable to get hurt. 



10 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



*t 



Really hurt, I mean. 1 

Stuart passed a forearm over 
his forehead and thrust the cane 
back at Windham, who seized it 
with his left hand, while mopping 
his bald pate vigorously with a 
handkerchief in his right. 

Windham said, "Gentlemen, we 
must avoid this. It lowers our 
prestige. We must remember the 
common enemy. We are Earth- 
men and we must act what we 
are — the ruling race of the Gal- 
axy. We dare not demean our- 
selves before the lesser breeds." 

"Yes, Colonel," said Stuart, 
wearily. "Give us the rest of the 
speech tomorrow." 

He turned to Mullen, "I want 
to say thanks." 

He was uncomfortable about 
it, but he had to. The little ac- 
countant had surprised him com- 
pletely. 

But Mullen said, in a dry voice 
that scarcely raised above a whis- 
per, "Don't thank me, Mr. Stu- 
art. It was the logical thing to do. 
If we are to be interned, we would 
need you as an interpreter, per- 
haps, one who would understand 
the Kloros." 

Stuart stiffened. It was, he 
thought, too much the bookkeeper 
type of reasoning, too logical, too 
dry of juice. Present risk and 
ultimate advantage. The assets 
and debits balanced neatly. He 
would have liked Mullen to leap 
to his defense out of — well, out 



of what? Out of pure, unselfish 
decency? 

Stuart laughed silently at him- 
self. He was beginning to expect 
idealism of human beings, rather 
than good, straightforward, self- 
centered motivation. 

i 

■pOLYORKETES was numb. 
*■ His sorrow and rage were like 
acid inside him, but they had no 
words to get out. If he were Stu- 
art, big -mouth, white-hands Stu- 
art, he could talk and talk and 
maybe feel better. Instead, he had 
to sit there with half of him dead; 
with no brother, no Aristides — 
g It had happened so quickly. If 
he could only go back and have 
one second more warning, so that 
he might snatch Aristides, hold 
him, save him. 

But mostly he hated the Klo- 
ros. Two months ago, he had 
hardly ever heard of them, and 
now he hated them so hard, he 
would be glad to die if he could 
kill a few. 

He said, without looking up, 
"What happened to start this 
war, eh?" 

He was afraid Stuart's voice 
would answer. He hated Stuart's 
voice. But it was Windham, the 
bald one. 

Windham said, "The immedi- 
ate cause, sir, was a dispute over 
mining concessions in the Wyan- 
dotte system. The Kloros had 
poached on Earth property," 



THE C-CHUTE 



11 



"Room for both. Colonel!" 
Polyorketes looked up at that, 
snarling. Stuart could not be kept 
quiet for long. He was speaking 
again; the cripple-hand, wiseguy, 
Kloros-lover. 

Stuart was saying, "Is that any- 
thing to fight over, Colonel? We 
can't use one another's worlds. 
Their c>forine planets are useless 
to us and our oxygen ones are 
useless to them. Chlorine is 
deadly to us and oxygen is deadly 
to them. There's no way we could 
maintain permanent hostility. 
Our races just don't coincide. Is 
there reason to fight then because 
both races want to dig iron out of 
the same airless planetoids when 
there are millions like them in 
the Galaxy?" 

Windham said, "There is the 
question of planetary honor — '* 

"Planetary fertilizer. How can 
it excuse a ridiculous war like 
this one? It can only be fought on 
outposts. It has to come down to 
a series of holding actions and 
eventually be settled by negotia- 
tions that might just as easily 
have been worked out in the first 

A 

place. Neither we nor the Kloros 
will gain a thing" 

Grudgingly, Polyorketes found 
that he agreed with Stuart What 
did he and Aristides care where 
Earth or the Kloros got their 
iron? 

Was that something for Aris- 
tides to die over? 







12 



C-AIAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




J 






v&/^._--r- 



The little warning buzzer 
sounded. 

Polyorketes* head shot up and 

he rose slowly, his lips drawing 
back. Only one thing could be at 
the door. He waited, arms tense, 
fists balled. Stuart was edging 
toward him. Polyorketes saw that 
and laughed to himself. Let the 
Kloro come in, and Stuart, along 
with all the rest, could not stop 
him. 

Wait, Aristides, wait just a 
moment, and a fraction of re- 
venge will be paid back. 

fTlHE door opened and a figure 

-"■■ entered, completely swathed 
in a shapeless, billowing travesty 

of a spacesuit. 

An odd, unnatural, but not en- 
tirely unpleasant voice began, 

"It is with some misgivings, 
Earthmen, that my companion 
and myself — " 

It ended abruptly as Polyor- 
ketes, with a roar, charged once 
again. There was no science in 
the lunge. It was sheer bull-mo- 
mentum. Dark head low, burly 
arms spread out with the hair- 
tufted fingers in choking position, 
he clumped on. Stuart was 
whirled to one side before he had 
a chance to intervene, and was 
spun tumbling across a cot. 

The Kloro might have, without 
undue exertion, straight-arme<I 
Polyorketes to a halt, or stepped 
•side, allowing the whirlwind to 



THE C-CHUTI 



i H ■ 



it 




pass. He did neither. With a rapid 
movement, a hand -weapon was 
up and a gentle pinkish line of 
radiance connected it with the 
plunging Earthman. Polyorketes 
stumbled and crashed down, his 
body maintaining its last curved 
position, one foot raised, as 
though a lightning paralysis had 
taken place. It toppled to one side 
and he lay there, eyes all alive 
and wild with rage. 

The Kloro said, "He is not 
permanently hurt." He seemed 
not to resent the offered violence. 
Then he began again, "It is with 
some misgiving, Earthmen, that 
my companion and myself were 
made aware of a certain commo- 
tion in this room. Are you in any 
need which we can satisfy?" 

Stuart was angrily nursing his 
knee which he had scraped in 
colliding with the cot. He said. 
"No. thank you, Kloro." 

"Now, look here," puffed Wind- 
ham, "this is a dashed outrage. 
We demand that our release be 
arranged." 

The Kloro's tiny, insectlike 
head turned in the fat old man's 
direction. He was not a pleasant 
sight to anyone unused to him. 
He was about the height of an 
Earthman, but the top of him 
consisted of a thin stalk of a neck 
with a head that was the merest 
swelling. It consisted of a blunt 
triangular proboscis in front and 
two bulging eyes on either side* 



That was all. There was no brain 
pan and no brain. What corres- 
ponded to the brain in a Kloro 
was located \fi what would be an 
Earthly abdomen, leaving the 
head as a mere sensory organ. The 
Kloro's spacesuit followed the 
outlines of the head more or less 
faithfully, the two eyes being ex- 
posed by two clear semicircles of 
glass, which looked faintly green 
because of the chlorine atmos- 
phere inside. 

One of the eyes was now cocked 
squarely at Windham, who quiv- 
ered uncomfortably under the 
glance, but insisted, "You have 
no right to hold us prisoner. We 
are noncombatants." 

The Kloro's voice, sounding 
thoroughly artificial, came from 
a small attachment of chromium 
mesh on what served as its chest. 
The voice box was manipulated 
by compressed air under the con- 
trol of one or two of the many 
delicate, forked tendrils that radi- 
ated from two circles about its 
upper body and were, mercifully 
enough, hidden by the suit. 

-The voice said, "Are you seri- 
ous, Earthman? Surely you have 
heard of war and rules of war 
and prisoners of war." 

It looked about, shifting eyes 
with quick jerks of its head, star- 
ing at a particular object i first 
with one, then with another. It 
was Stuart's understanding that 
each eye transferred a separate 



14 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



message to the abdominal brain, 
which had to coordinate the two 
to obtain full information. 

Windham had nothing to say. 
No one had. The Kloro, its four 
main limbs, roughly arms and 
legs in pairs, had a vaguely hu- 
man appearance under the mask- 
ing of the suit, if you looked no 
higher than its chest, but there 
was no way of telling what it felt. 

They watched it turn and leave. 

PORTER coughed and said in 
a strangled voice, "God, smell 
that chlorine. If they don't do 
something, we'll all die of rotted 
lungs." 

Stuart said, "Shut up. There 
isn't enough chlorine in the air 
to make a mosquito sneeze, and 
what there is will be swept out in 
two minutes. Besides, a little 
chlorine is good for you. it may 
kill your cold virus." 

Windham coughed and said, 
"Stuart, I feel that you might 
have said something to your 
Kloro friend about releasing us. 
You are scarcely as bold in their 
presence, dash it, as you are once 
they are gone." 

"You heard what the creature 
said, Colonel. We're prisoners of 
war, and prisoner exchanges are 
negotiated by diplomats. We'll 
just have to wait." 

Leblanc, who had turned pasty 
white at the entrance of the Kloro, 
rose and hurried into the privy. 



There was the sound of retching. 

An uncomfortable silence fell 
while Stuart tried to think of 
sqmething to say to cover the un- 
pleasant sound. Mullen filled in. 
He had rummaged through a lit- 
tle box he had taken from under 
his pillow. 

He said, "Perhaps Mr. Le- 
blanc had better take a sedative 
before retiring. I have a few. Pd 
be glad to give him one." He ex- 
plained his generosity immedi- 
ately, "Otherwise he may keep 
the rest of us awake, you see." 

"Very logical ," said Stuart, 
dryly. "You'd better save one for 
Sir Launcelot here; save .half a 
dozen." He walked to where Poly- 
orketes still sprawled and knelt 
at his side. "Comfortable, baby?" 

Windham said, "Deuced poor 
taste speaking like that, Stuart." 

"Well, if you're so concerned 
about him, why don't you and 
Porter hoist him onto his cot?" 

H£ helped them do so. Polyor- 
ketes' arms were trembling er- 
ratically now. From what Stuart 
knew of the Kloro's nerve weap- 
ons, the man should be in an 
agony of pins and needles about 
now. 

Stuart said, "And don't be too 
gentle with him, either. The 
damned fool might have gotten 
us all killed. And for what?" 

He pushed Polyorketes' stiff 
carcass to one side and sat at the 
edge of the cot. He said, "Can 



/ 



THE C-CH UTE 



19 



you bear me, Polyorketes?" 

Polyorketes' eyes gleamed. An 
arm lifted abortively and fell 
back. 

"Okay then, listen. Don't try 
anything like that again. The next 
time it may be the finish for all 
of us. If you had been a Kloro and 
he had been an Earthman, we'd 
be dead now. So just get one thing 
through your skull. We're sorry 
about your brother and it's a rot- 
ten shame, but it was his own 
fault." 

Polyorketes tried to heave and 
Stuart pushed him back. 

"No. you keep on listening/' he 
said. "Maybe this is the only time 
I'll get to talk to you when you 
have to listen. Your brother had 
no right leaving passenger's quar- 
ters. There was no place for him 
to go. He just got in the way of 
our own men. We don't even 
know for certain that it was- a 
Kloro gun that killed him. It 
might have been one of our own.*' 

"Oh, I say, Stuart," objected 
Windham. 

Stuart whirled at him. "Do you 
have proof it wasn't? Did you see 
the shot? Could you tell from 
what was left of the body whether 
it was Kloro energy or 'Earth en- 
ergy?" 

Polyorketes found his voice, 
driving his unwilling tongue into 
a fuzzy verbal snarl. "Damned 
stinking greenie bastard.** 

"Me?" said Stuart. "I know 



what's going on in your mind, 
Polyorketes. You think that when 
the paralysis wears off, you'll ease 
your feelings by slamming me 
around. Well, if you do, it will 
probably be curtains for all of us." 
He rose, put his back against 
the wall. For the moment, he was 
fighting all of them. "None of you 
know the Kloros the way I do. 
The physical differences you see 
are not important. The differences 
in their temperament are. They 
don't understand our views on 
sex, for instance. To them, it's 
just a biological reflex like breath- 
ing. They attach no importance 
to it. But they do attach impor- 
tance to social groupings. Re- 
member, their evolutionary an- 
cestors had lots in common with 
our insects. They always assume 
that any group of Earthmen they 
find together makes up a social 
unit. 

"That means just about every- 
thing to them. I don't understand 
exactly what it means. No Earth- 
man can. But the result is that 
they never break up a group, 
just as we don't separate a mother 
and her children if we can help it. 
One of the reasons they're treat- 
ing us with kid gloves right now 
is that they imagine we're all 
broken up over the fact that they 
killed one of us, and they feel 
guilt about it. 

"But this is what you'll have 
to remember. We're going to be 



16 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



interned together and kept to- 
gether for duration. I don't like 
the thought. I wouldn't have 
picked any of you for co-internees 
and I'm pretty sure none of you 
would have picked me. But there 
it is. The Kloros could never 
understand that our being to- 
gether on the ship is only acci- 
dental. 

"That means we've got to get 
along somehow. That's not just 
goodie-goodie talk about birds in 
their little nests agreeing. What 
do you think would have hap- 
pened if the Kloros had come in 
earlier and found Polyorketes and 
myself trying to kill each other? 
You don't know? Well, what do 
you suppose you would think of 
a mother you caught trying to 
kill her children? 

"That's it, then. They would 
have killed eyery one of us as a 
bunch of Kloro-type perverts and 
monsters. Got that? How about 
you, Polyorketes? Have you got 
it? So let's call names if we have 
to, but let's keep our hands to 
ourselves. And now, if none of 
you mind, I'll massage my hands 
back into shape — these synthetic 
hands that I got from the Kloros 
and that one of my own kind 
tried to mangle again." 

T70R Claude Leblanc, the worst 
•*■ was over. He had been sick 
enough; sick with many things; 
but sick most of all over having 



ever left Earth. It had been a 
great thing to go to college off 
Earth. It had been an adventure 
and had taken him away from 
his mother. Somehow, he had 
been sneakingly glad to make 
that escape after the first month 
of frightened adjustment. 

And then on the summer holi- 
days, he had been no longer 
Claude, the shy-spoken scholar, 
but Leblanc, space traveler. He 
had swaggered the fact for all it 

was worth. It made him feel such 
a man to talk of stars and Jumps 
and the customs and environ- 
ments of other worlds; it had 
given him courage with Margaret. 
She had loved him for the dan- 
gers' he had undergone — 

Except that this had been the 
first one, really, and he had not 
done so well. He knew it and was 
ashamed and wished he were like 
Stuart. 

He used the excuse of mealtime 
to approach. He said, "Mr. Stu- 
art." 

Stuart looked up and said 
shortly, "How do you feel?" 

Leblanc felt himself blush. He 
blushed easily and the effort not 
to blush only made it worse. He 
said, "Much better, thank you. 
We are eating. I thought I'd bring 
you your ration." 

Stuart took the offered can. It 
was standard space ration; thor- 
oughly synthetic , concentrated, 
nourishing and, somehow, unsat- 



THE C-CHUTE 



17 



i. 



*• I 




isfylng. It heated automatically 
when the can was opened, but 
could be eaten cold, if necessary. 
Though a combined fork-spoon 
utensil was enclosed, the ration 
was of a consistency that made 
the use of fingers practical and 
not particularly messy. 

Stuart said, "Did you hear my 
little speech?" 

"Yes, sir. I want you to know 
you can count on me." 

"Well, good. Now go and eat." 
May I eat here?" 
Suit yourself." 

For a moment, they ate in si- 
lence, and then Leblanc burst out, 
"You are so sure of yourself, Mr. 
Stuart! It must be very wonderful 
to be like that!" 

"Sure of myself? Thanks, but 

therms your self-assured one." 

Leblanc followed the direction 
of the nod in surprise. "Mr. Mul- 
len? That little man? Oh, no!" 

"You don't think he's self-as- 
sured?" 

Leblanc shook hi* head. He 
looked at Stuart intently to see 
if he could detect humor in his 
expression. "That one is just cold. 
He baa no emotion in him. He's 
like a little machine. I find him 
repulsive. You're different, Mr. 
Stuart. You have it all inside, but 
you control it. I would like to be 
like that." 

And as though attracted by the 
magnetism of the mention, even 
though unheard, of his name. 



Mullen joined them. His can of 
ration was barely touched. It was 
still steaming gently as he squat- 
ted opposite them. 

His voice had its usual quality 
of furtively rustling underbrush. 
"How long, Mr. Stuart, do you 
think the trip will take?" 

"Can't say, Mullen. They'll un- 
doubtedly be avoiding the usual 
trade routes and they'll be mak- 
ing more Jumps through hyper- 
space than usual to throw off 
possible pursuit. I wouldn't be 
surprised if it took as long as a 
week. Why do you ask? I pre- 
sume you have a very practical 
and logical reason?" 

"Why. yes. Certainly." He 
seemed quite shellbacked to sar- 
casm. He said, "It occurred to me 
that it might be wise to ration 
the rations, so to speak." 

"We've got enough food and 
water for a month. I checked on 
that first thing." 

"I see. In that case, I will fin- 
ish the can." He did, using the 
all-purpose utensil daintily and 
patting a handkerchief against 
his unstained lips from time to 
time. 

OOLYORKETES struggled to 
** his feet some two hours later. 
He swayed a bit, looking like the 
Spirit of Hangover. He did not 
try to come closer to Stuart; but 
spoke from 1 where h« stood. 1 
He said, "You stinking greenit 









18 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



*» 



spy, y° u watch yourself. 1 

"You heard what I said before, 
Polyorketes." 

"1 heard. But I also heard what 
you said about Aristides. I won't 
bother with you, because you're 
a bag of nothing but noisy air. 

But wait, someday you'll blow 

your air in one face too many and 
it will be let out of you." 

*T11 wait," said Stuart. 

Windham hobbled over, lean- 
ing heavily on his cane. "Now, 
now," he called with a wheezing 
joviality that overlaid his sweat- 
ing anxiety so thinly as to em- 
phasize it. "We're all Earthmen, 
dash it. Got to remember that; 
keep it as a glowing light of in- 
spiration. Never let down before 
Ihe blasted Kloros. We've got to 
forget private feuds and remem- 
ber only that we are Earthmen 
united against alien blighters." 

Stuart's comment was unprint- 
able. 

Porter was right behind Wind- 
ham. He had been in a close con- 
ference with the shaven -headed 
colonel for an hour, and now he 
said with indignation. "It doesn't 
help to be a wiseguy, Stuart. You 
listen to the colonel. We've been 
doing some hard thinking about 
the situation." 

He had washed some of the 
grease off his face, wet his hair 
and slicked it back. It did not 
remove the little tic on his right 
cheek just at the point where his 

THE C CHUTE 



lips ended, or make his hangnail 
hands more attractive in appear- 
ance. 

"All right, Colonel," said Stu- 
art. "What's on your mind?" 

Windham said, "I'd prefer to 
have all the men together." 

"Okay, call them." 

Leblanc hurried over; Mullen 
approached with greater delibera- 
tion. 

Stuart said, "You want that 
fellow?" He jerked his head at 
Polyorketes. 

"Why, yes. Mr. Polyorketes, 
may we have you, old fella?" 

"Ah, leave me alone." 

"Go ahead," said Stuart, "leave 
him alone. I don't want him/* 

"No, no/* said Windham. "This 
is a matter for ell Earthmen. Mr. 
Polyorketes, we must have you." 

Polyorketes rolled off one side 
of his cot. "I'm close enough. I 
can hear you." 

Windham said to Stuart, 
"Would they — the Kloros, I mean 
- — have this room wired?" 

"No," said Stuart. "Why 
should they?" 

"Are you sure?" 

"Of course I'm sure. They 
<3idn't know what happened when 
Polyorketes jumped me. They 
just heard the thumping when it 
started rattling the ship." 

"Maybe they were trying to 
give us the impression the room 
wasn't wired." 

- 

Listen, Colonel, I've never 



441 






19 



known a Kloro to tell a deliberate 
lie—" 

Polyorketes interrupted calmly, 
"That lump of noise just loves 
the Kloros." 

Windham said hastily, "Let's 
not begin that. Look, Stuart, 
Porter and I have been discussing 
matters and we have - decided that 
you know the Kloros well enough 
to think of some way of getting 
us back to Earth." 

"It happens that you're wrong. 
I can't think of any way." 

"Maybe there is some way we 
can take the ship back from the 
blasted green fellas," suggested 
Windham. "Some weakness they 
may have. Dash it, you know 
what I mean." 

"Tell me, Colonel, what are you 
after? Your own skin or Earth's 
welfare?" 

"I resent that question. I'll have 
you know that while I'm as care- 
ful of my own life as anyone has 
a right to be, I'm thinking of 
Earth primarily. And I think 
that's true of all of us." 

"Damn right," said Porter, in- 
stantly. Leblanc looked anxious, 
Polyorketes resentful; and Mul- 
len had no expression at all. 

"Good," said Stuart. "Of 
course, I don't think we can take 
the ship. They're armed and we 
aren't. But there's this. You know 
why the Kloros took this ship in- 
tact. It's becaufee they need ships. 
They may be better chemists than 



Earthmen are, but Earthmen are 
better astronautical engineers. We 
have bigger, better and more 
ships. In fact, if our crew had had 
a proper respect for military axi- 
oms in the first place, they would 
have blown the ship up as soon 
as it looked as though the Kloros 
were going to board/* 

Leblanc looked horrified. "And 
kill the passengers?" 

"Why not? You heard what 
the good colonel said. Every one 
of us puts his own lousy little life 
after Earth's interests. What good 
are we to Earth alive right now? 
None at all. What harm will this 
ship do in Kloro hands? A hell 
of a lot, probably." 

"Just why," asked Mullen, 
"did our men refuse to blow up 
the ship? They must have had a 

reason." 

"They did. It's the firmest tra- 
dition of Earth's military men 
that there must never be an un- 
favorable ratio of casualties. If 
we had blown ourselves up, 
twenty fighting men and seven 
civilians of Earth would be dead 
as compared with an enemy casu- 
alty total of zero. So what hap- 
pens? We let them board, kill 
twenty-eight — I'm sure we killed 
at least that many — and let them 
have the ship." 

"Talk, talk, talk," jeered Poly- 
orketes. 

"There's a moral to this," said 
Stuart. "We can't take the ship 



20 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



away from the Kloros. We might 
be able to rush them, though, and 
keep them busy long enough to 
allow one of us enough time to 
short the engines." 

"What?" yelled Porter, and 
Windham shushed him in fright. 

"Short the engines," Stuart re- 
peated. "That would destroy the 
ship, of course, which is what we 
want to do, isn't it?" 

Leblanc's lips were white. "I 
don't think that would work." 

"We can't be sure till we try. 
But what have we to lose by try- 
ing?" 

"Our lives, damn it!" cried 

- 

F«>rter< "You insMint maniac, 

you're crazy!" 

"If I'm a maniac," said Stuart, 
"and insane to boot, then natu- 
rally I*m cra2y. But just remem- 
ber that if we lose our lives, which 
is overwhelmingly probable, we 
lose nothing of value to Earth; 
whereas if we destroy the ship, as 
we just barely might, we do Earth 
a lot of good. What patriot would 
hesitate? Who here would put 
himself ahead of his world?" He 
looked about in the silence. 
"Surely not you, Colonel Wind- 
ham." 

Windham coughed tremen- 
dously. "My dear man. that is not 
the question. There must be a 
way to save the ship for Earth 
without losing our lives, eh?" 

"All right. You name it." 

"Lets all think about it. Now 



«< 



there are only two of the Kloros 

aboard ship. If one of us could 
sneak up on them and — " 

"How? The rest of the ship's all 
filled with chlorine. We'd have to 
wear a spacesuit. Gravity in their 
part of the ship is hopped up to 
Kloro level, so whoever is patsy 
in the deal would be clumping 
around, metal on metal, slow and 
heavy. Oh, he could sneak up on 
them, sure — like a skunk trying 
to sneak downwind." 

"Then we'll drop it all," Por- 
ter's voice shook. "Listen, Wind- 
ham, there's not going to be any 
destroying the ship. My life 
means plenty to me and if any of 
you try anything like that, Ml 
call the Kloros. I mean it." 

"Well," said Stuart, "there's 
hero number one." 

Leblanc said, "I want to go 
back to Earth, but I—" 

Mullen interrupted. "I don't 
think our chances of destroying 
the ship are good enough un- 
less—" 

"Heroes number two and three. 
What about you, Polyork< t< s? 
You would have the chance of 

killing two K1or6s." 

"I want to kill them with my 
bare hands," growled the farmer, 
his heavy fists writhing. "On their 
planet, I will kill dozens." 

"That's a nice safe promise for 
now. What about you, Colonel? 
Don't you want to march to death 
and glory with me?" 



THE C-CHUTE 



21 



*. 



«. 



"Your attitude is very cynical 
and unbecoming, Stuart. It's ob- 
vious that if the rest are unwill- 
ing, then your plan will fall 
through." 

Unless I do it myself, huh?" 
You won't, do you hear?" said 
Porter, instantly. ' 

"Damn right I won't/' agreed 
Stuart. "I don't claim to be a 
hero. I'm just an average patriot, 
perfectly willing to head for any 
planet they take me to and sit 
out the war." 

MULLEN said, thoughtfully, 
"Of course, there is a way 
we could surprise the Kloros." 

The statement would have 
dropped flat except for Polyor- 
ketes. He pointed a black-nailed,, 
stubby forefinger and laughed 
harshly. "Mr. Bookkeeper!" he 
said. "Mr. Bookkeeper is a big 
shot talker like this damned 
greenie spy, Stuart. All right, Mr. 
Bookkeeper, go ahead. You make 
big speeches also. Let the words 
roll like an empty barrel." 

He turned to Stuart and re- 
peated venomously, "Empty bar- 
rel! Cripple -hand empty barrel. 
No good for anything but talk." 

Mullen's soft voice could make 
no headway until Polyorketes was 
through, but then he said, speak - 
: ing directly to Stuart, "We might 
be able to reach them from out- 
side. This room has a C-chute, 

m sure. 



"What's a C-chute?" asked Le- 
blanc. 

"Well— -" began Mullen, and 
then stopped, at a loss. 

Stuart said, mockingly, "It's a 
euphemism, my boy. Its full name 
is 'casualty chute.' It doesn't get 
talked about, but the main rooms 
on any ship would have them. 
They're just little airlocks down 
which you slide a corpse. Burial 
at space. Always lots of sentiment' 
and bowed heads, with the cap- 
tain making a rolling speech of 
the type Polyorketes here would- 
n't like." 

Leblanc's face twisted. "Use 
that to leave the ship?" 

"Why not? Superstitious? — Go 
on, Mullen." 

The little man had waited pa- 
tiently. He said, "Once outside, 
one could re-enter the ship by the 
steam-tubes. It can be done — with 
luck. And then you would be an 
unexpected visitor in the control 
room." 

Stuart stared at him curiously* 
"How do you figure this out? 
What do you know about steam- 
tubes?" 

Mullen coughed. "You mean 
because I'm in the paper-box 
business? Well — " He grew pink, 
waited a moment, then tnade a 
new start in a colorless, unemo- 
tional voice. "My company, 
which manufactures fancy paper 
boxes and novelty containers, 
made a line of spaceship catidy 



22 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



boxes for the juvenile trade some 
years ago. It was designed so 
that if a string were pulled, small 
pressure containers were punc- 
tured and jets of compressed air 
shot out through the mock 
steam-tubes, sailing the box 
across the room and scattering 
candy as it went. The sales theory 
was that the youngsters would 
find it exciting to play with the 
ship and fun to scramble for the 
candy. 

"Actually, it was a complete 
failure. The ship would break 
dishes and sometimes hit another 
child in the eye. Worse still, the 
children would not only scramble 
for the candy but would fight 
over it. It was almost our worst 
failure. We lost thousands. 

"Still, while the boxes were 
being designed, the entire office 
was extremely interested. It was 
like a game, very bad for effi- 
ciency and office morale- For a 
while, we all became steam- tube 
experts. I read quite a few books 
on ship construction. On my own 

time, however, not the com- 
pany's." 

Stuart was intrigued. He said, 
"You know it's a video sort of 
idea, but it might work if we had 
a hero to spare. Have we?*' 

"What about you?" demanded 
Porter, indignantly. "You go 
around sneering at us with your 
cheap wisecracks. I don't notice 
you volunteering for any thing/* 



"That's because I'm no hero. 
Porter. I admit it. My object is to 
stay alive, and shinnying down 
steam-tubes is no way to go about 
staying alive. But the rest of you 
are noble patriots. The Colonel 
says so. What about you, Col- 
onel? You're the senior hero 
here." 

Windham said, "If I were 
younger, blast it, and if you had 

your hands, I would take pleas- 
ure, sir, in trouncing you sound- 

"I've no doubt of it, but that's 
no answer/ 1 

"You know very well that at 
my time of life and with my 
leg — " he brought the flat of his 
hand down upon his stiff knee— • 
"I am in no position to do any- 
thing of the sort, however much 
I should wish to." 

"Ah, yes," said Stuart, "and I, 
myself, am crippled in the hands, 
as Polyorketes tells me. That 
saves us. And what unfortunate 
deformities do the rest of us 
have?" 

"Listen" cried Porter, "1 want 
to know what this is all about. 
How can anyone go down the 
steam-tubes? What if the Kloros 
use them while one of us is in- 
side?" 

"Why, Porter, that's part of the 
sporting chance. It's where the 
excitement comes in." 

"But he'd be boiled in the shell 
like a lobster." 



THE CCHUTE 



2* 



M A pretty image, but inaccur- 

ite. The steam wouldn't be on 

or more than a very short time, 

naybc a second or two, and the 

uiit insulation would hold that 

ong. Besides, the jet comes scoot - 

ng out at several hundred miles 

n minute, so that you would be 

>Iown clear of the ship before the 

:team could even warm you. In 

"act, you'd be blown quite a few 

niles out into space, and after 

hat you would be quite safe from 

he Kloros. Of course, you 

ouldn't get back to the ship." 

Porter was sweating freely, 
"You don't scare me for one min- 
ute, Stuart/' 

"I don't? Then you're offering 
to go? Are you sure you've 
thought out what being stranded 
in space means? You're all alone, 
you know; really all alone. The 
steam-jet will probably leave you 
turning or tumbling pretty rap- 
idly. You won't feel that. You'll 
seem to be motionless. But all the 
stars will be going around and 
around so that they're just streaks 
in the sky. They won't ever stop. 
They won't even slow up. Then 
your heater will go or your oxy- 
gen will give out, and you will 
Jie very slowly. You'll have lots 
of time to think. Or, if you are in 
i hurry, you could open your 
suit. That wouldn't be pleasant, 
either. I've seen the faces of men 
who had a torn suit happen to 
them accidentally, and it's pretty 



awful. But it would be quicker. 
Then—" 

Porter turned and walked un- 
steadily away. 

Stuart said, lightly, "Another 
failure. One act of heroism still 
ready to be knocked down to the 
highest bidder with nothing of* 
fered yet" 

Polyorketes spoke up and his 
harsh voice roughed the words, 
"You keep on talking, Mr. Big 
Mouth. You just keep banging 
that empty barrel. Pretty soon, 
we'll kick your teeth in. There's 

one boy I think would be willing 
to do it now, eh, Mr. Porter?" 

Porter's look at Stuart con- 
firmed the truth of Polyorketes' 
remarks, but he said nothing. 

Stuart said, "Then what about 
you, Polyorketes? You're the 
bare-hand man with guts. Want 
me to help you into a suit?" 
"II! ask you when I want help/' 
'What about you, Leblanc?" 
The young man shrank away. 
. "Not even to get back to Mar- 
garet?" 

But Leblanc could only shake 

his head. 
"Mullen?" 
"Well— V 11 try." 
"You'll what?" 
"I said, yes, I'll try. After all, 

it's my idea." 

m Stuart looked stunned. "You're 

serious? How'come?" 

Mullen's prim mouth pursed. 
"Because no one else will." 



24 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTIOK 




"But that's no reason. Espe- 
cially for you." 

Mullen shrugged. 

There was a thump of a cane 
behind Stuart. Windham brushed 
past. 

He said, "Do you really intend 
to go, Mullen?" 

"Yes, Colonel." 

"In. that case, dash it, let me 
shake your hand. I like you. 
You're an — an Earthman, by 
heaven. Do this, and win or die, 
I'll bear witness for you M 



Mullen withdrew his hand awk- 
wardly from the deep and vi- 
brating grasp of the other. 

And Stuart just stood there. He 
was in a very unusual position. 

He was. in fact, in the particular 
position of all positions in which 

he most rarely found himself. 
He had nothing to say. 

* 

HPHE quality of tension had 

-*• changed. The gloom and frus- 
tration had lifted a bit, and the 
excitement of conspiracy had re- 



THI C-CHUTI 



25 






placed it. Even Polyorketes was 
fingering the spacesuits and com- 
menting briefly and hoarsely on 
which he considered preferable- 
Mullen was having a certain 
amount of trouble. The suit hung 
rather limply upon him even 
though the adjustable joints had 
been tightened nearly to mini- 
mum. He stood there now with 
only the helmet to be screwed on. 
He wiggled his neck. 

Stuart was holding the helmet 
with an effort. It was heavy, and 
his artiplasmic hands did not grip 
it well. He said, "Better scratch 

your nose if it itches. It's your 
last chance for a while/' He 
didn't add, "Maybe forever," but 
he thought it. 

Mullen said, tonelessly, "I 
think perhaps I had better have 
* spare oxygen cylinder." 

"Good enough." 

"With a reducing valve." 

Stuart nodded. "I see what 
you're thinking of. If you do get 
blown clear of the ship, you could 
try to blow yourself back by using 
the cylinder as an action-reaction 
motor." 

They clamped on the headpiece 
and buckled the spare cylinder 
to Mullen's waist. Polyorketes 
and Leblanc lifted him up to the 
yawning opening of the C-tube. 
It was ominously dark inside, the 
metal lining of the interior hav- 
ing been painted a mournful 
black. Stuart thought he could 



detect a musty odor about it, but 
that, he knew, was only imagina- 
tion. 

He stopped the proceedings 
when Mullen was half within the 
tube. He tapped upon the little 
man's faceplate. 

"Can you hear me?" 

Within, there was a nod. 

"Air coming through all right? 
No last-minute troubles?" 

Mullen lifted his armored arm 
in a gesture of reassurance. 

"Then remember, don't use the 
suit-radio out there. The Kloros 
might pick up the signals." 

Reluctantly* he stepped away. 
Polyorketes* brawny hands low- 
ered Mullen until they could hear 
the thumping sound made by the 
steel-shod feet against the outer 
valve. The inner valve then swung 
shut with a dreadful finality, its 
beveled silicone gasket making a 
slight soughing noise as it crushed 
hard. They clamped it into place. 

Stuart stood at the toggle- 
switch that controlled the outer 
valve. He threw it and the gauge 
that marked the air pressure 
within the tube fell to zero. A 
little pinpoint of red light warned 
that the outer valve was open. 
Then the light disappeared, the 
valve closed, and the gauge 
climbed slowly to fifteen pounds 
again. 

They opened the inner valve 
again and found the tube empty. 

Polyorketes spoke first. He said. 



26 



CAIAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



"The little son-of-a-gun. He 

went!" He looked wonderingly at 

the other. "A little fellbw with 
guts like that." 

Stuart said, "Look, we'd better 
get ready in here. There's just a 
chance that the Kloros may have 
detected the valves opening and 
closing. If so, they'll be here to in- 
vestigate and we'll have to cover 
up." 

"How?" asked Windham. 

"They won't see Mullen any- 
where around. We'll say he's in 
the head. The Kloros know that 
it's one of the peculiar character- 
istics of Earthmen that they re- 
sent intrusion on their privacy in 
lavatories, and they'll make no 
effort to check. If we can hold 

them off—" 

"What if they wait, or if they 
check the spacesuits?" asked Por- 
ter. 

Stuart shrugged. "Let's hope 
they don't. And listen, Polyor- 
ketes, don't make any fuss when 
they come in." 

Polyorketes grunted, "With 
that little guy out there? What 
do you think I am?" He stared at 
Stuart without animosity, then 
scratched his curly hair vigor- 
ously. "You know t I laughed at 
him. I thought he was an old 
woman. It makes me ashamed." 

Stuart cleared his throat. He 

• 

said, "Look, I've been saying 
some things that maybe weren't 
too funny after all, now that I 



come to think of it. I'd like to say 
I'm sorry if I have." 

He turned away morosely and 
walked toward his cot. He heard 
the steps behind him, felt the 
touch on his sleeve. He turned; 
it was Leblanc. 

The youngster said softly, "I 
keep thinking that Mr. Mullen is 
an old man." 

"Well, he's not a kid. He's 
about forty-five or fifty, I think." 

Leblanc said, "Do you think, 
Mr. Stuart, that / should have 
gone, instead? I'm the youngest 
here. I don't like the thought of 
having let an old man go in my 
place. It makes me feel like the 
devil." 

"I know. If he dies, it will be 

too bad." 

"But he volunteered. We didn't 
make him, did we?" 

"Don't try to dodge responsi- 
bility, Leblanc. It won't make you 
feel better. There isn't one of us 
without a stronger motive to run 
the risk than he had." And Stu- 
art sat there silently, thinking. 

|t/|ULLEN felt the obstruction 
*•**• beneath his feet yield and 
the walls about him slip away 
quickly, too quickly. He knew it 
was the puff of air escaping, car- 
rying him with it, and he dug 
arms and legs frantically against 
the wall to brake himself. Corpses 
were supposed to be flung well 
clear of the ship, but he was no 



THE C-CHUTE 



27 



corpse — for the moment. 

His feet swung free and thresh- 
ed. He heard the clunk of one 
magnetic boot against the hull 
just as the rest of his body puffed 
out like a tight cork under air 
pressure. He teetered dangerously 
at the lip of the hole in the ship — 
he had changed orientation sud- 
denly and was looking down on 
it — then took a step backward as 
its lid came down of itself and 
fitted smoothly against the hull. 



A feeling of unreality over- 
whelmed him. Sturdy, it wasn't 
he standing on the outer surface 
of a ship. Not Randolph F. Mul- 
len. So few human beings could 
ever say they had. even those who 
traveled in space constantly. 

He was only gradually aware 
that he was in pain. Popping out 
of that hole with one foot clamped 
to the hull had nearly bent him in 
two. He tried moving, cautiously, 
and found his motions to be er- 






-. 




4 



n 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



ratic and almost impossible to 
control. He thought nothing was 
broken, though the muscles of his 
left side were badly wrenched. 

And then he came to himself 
and noticed that the wrist lights 

of his suit were on. It was by their 
light that he had stared into the 
blackness of the C-chute. He stir- 
red with the nervous thought that 
from within, the Kloros might see 

the twin spots of moving light just 
outside the hull. He flicked the 
switch upon the suit's mid-sec- 
tion. 

Mullen had never imagined 

that, standing on a ship, he would 
fail to see its hull. But it was 
dark, as dark below as above. 
There were the stars, hard and 
bright little non-dimensional dots. 
Nothing more. Nothing more any- 
where. Under his feet, not even 
the stars — not even his feet. 

He bent back to look at the 
stars. His head swam. They were 
moving slowly. Or, rather, they 
were standing still and the ship 
was rotating, but he could not 
tell his eyes that. They moved. 
His eyes followed — down and be- 
hind the ship. New stars up and 
above from the other side. A black 
horizon, The ship existed only as 
a region where there were no 
stars. 

No stars? Why, there was one 
almost at his feet. He nearly 
reached for it; then he realized 
that it was only a glittering re- 



flection in the mirroring metal. 

They were moving thousands 
of miles an hour. The stars were. 
The ship was. He was. But it 
meant nothing. To his senses, 
there was only silence and dark- 
ness and that slow wheeling of 
the stars. His eyes followed the 
wheeling — 

And his head in its helmet hit 
the ship's hull with a soft bell- 
like ring. 

He felt about in panic with his 
thick, insensitive, spun-silicate 
gloves. His feet were still firmly 
magnetized to the hull, that was 
true, but the rest of his body bent 
backward at the knees in a right 
angle. There was no gravity out- 
side the ship. If he bent back, 
there was nothing to pull the 
upper part of his body down and 
tell his joints they were bending. 
His body stayed as he put it. 

He pressed wildly against the 
hull and his torso shot upward 
and refused to stop when upright. 
He fell forward. 

He tried more slowly, balancing 
with both hands against the hull, 
until he squatted evenly. Then 
upward. Very slowly. Straight up. 
Arms out to balance. 

He was straight now, aware of 
his nausea and lightheadedness. 

He looked about. My God, 
where were the steam -tubes? He 
couldn't see them. They were 
black on black, nothing on noth- 
ing. 



THE C-CHUTE 



29 




X) 



e A l A J< Y SCIENCE FICTION 



Quickly, he turned on the wrist 
lamps. In space, there were no 
beams, only elliptical, sharply de- 
fined spots of blue steel, winking 
light back at him. Where they 
struck a rivet, a shadow was cast, 
knife-sharp and as black as 
space, the lighted region illumi- 
nated abruptly and without dif- 
fusion. 

He moved his arms, his body 
swaying gently * n the opposite 
direction ; action and reaction. 
The vision of a steam-tube with 
its smooth cylindrical sides 
sprang at him. 

He tried to move toward it. His 
foot held firmly to the hull. He 
pulled and it slogged upward, 
straining against quicksand that 
eased quickly. Three inches up 
and it had almost sucked free; 
six inches up and he thought it 
would fly away. 

He advanced it and let it down, 
felt it enter the quicksand. When 
the sole was within two inches 
of the hull, it snapped down, out 
of control, hitting the hull ring- 
ingly. His spacesuit carried the 
vibrations, amplifying them in 
his ears. 

He stopped in absolute terror. 
The dehydrators that dried the 
atmosphere within his suit could 
not handle the sudden gush of 
perspiration that drenched his 
forehead and armpits. 

He waited, then tried lifting his 
foot again — a bare inch, holding 



it there by main force and mov- 
ing it horizontally. Horizontal 
motion involved no effort at all; 
it was motion perpendicular to 
the lines of magnetic force. But 
he had to keep the foot from 
snapping down as he did so, and 
then lower it slowly. 

He puffed with the effort. Each 
step was agony. The tendons of 
his knees were cracking, and 
there were knives in his side. 

Mullen stopped to let the per- 
spiration dry. It wouldn't do to 
steam up the inside of his face- 
plate. He flashed his wrist-lamps, 
and the steam-cylinder was right 

ahead. 

The ship had four of them, at 
ninety degree intervals, thrusting 
out at an angle from the mid- 
girdle. They were the "fine ad- 
justment" of the ship's course. 
The coarse adjustment was the 
powerful thrusters back and front 
which fixed final velocity by 
their accelerative and decelera- 
tive force, and the hyperatomics 
that took care of the space- 
swallowing Jumps. 

But occasionally the direction 
of flight had to be adjusted 
slightly and then the steam - 
cylinders took over. Singly, they 

could drive the ship up, down, 
right, left. By twos, in appropri- 
ate ratios of thrust, the ship 
could be turned in any desired 

direction. 

The device had been unim* 



THE C-CHUTE 



31 



proved in centuries, being too 
simple to improve. The atomic 
pile heated the water content of 
a closed container into steam, 
driving it, in less than a second, 
up to temperatures where it 
would have broken down into a 
mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, 
and then into a mixture of elec- 
trons and ions. Perhaps the 
breakdown actua lly took place. 
No one ever bothered testing; it 
worked, so there was no need to. 

At the critical point, a needle 
valve gave way and the steam 
thrust madly out in a short but 
incredible blast. And the ship, in- 
evitably and majestically, moved 
in the opposite direction, veering 
about its own center of gravity. 
When the degrees of turn were 
sufficient, an equal and opposite 
blast would take place and the 
turning would be canceled. The 
ship would be moving at its or- 
iginal velocity, but in a new di- 
rection. 

Mullen had dragged himself 
out to the lip of the steam-cyl- 
inder. He had a picture of himself 
—a small speck teetering at the 
extreme end of a structure thrust- 
ing out of an ovoid that was tear- 
ing through space at ten thousand 
miles an hour. 

But there was no air-stream to 
whip him off the hull, and his 
magnetic soles held him. more 
firmly than he liked. 

With lights on, he bent down 



to peer into the tube and the 
ship dropped down precipitously 
as his orientation changed. He 
reached out to steady himself, but 
he was not falling. There was no 
up or down in space except for 
what his confused mind chose to 
consider up or down. 

The cylinder was just large 
enough to hold a man, so that it 
might be entered for repair pur- 
poses. His light caught the rungs 
almost directly opposite his posi- 
tion at the lip. He puffed a sigh 
of relief with what breath he 
could muster. Some ships didn't 
have ladders. 

He made his way to it, the ship 
appearing to slip and twist be- 
neath him as he moved. He lifted 
an arm over the lip of the tube, 
feeling for the rung, loosened each 
foot, and drew himself within. 

The knot in his stomach that 
had been there from the first was 
a convulsed agony now. If they 
should choose to manipulate the 
ship, if the steam should whistle 
out now — 

He would never hear it; never 
know it. One instant he would be 
holding a rung, feeling slowly for 
the next with a groping arm. The 
next moment he would be alone 
in space, the ship a dark, dark 
nothingness lost forever among 
the stars- There would be, per- 
haps, a brief glory of swirling ice 
crystals drifting with him, shin- 
ing in his wrist-light and slowly 



tl 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTIO 



ppproaching and rotating about 
him, attracted by his mass like 
infinitesimal planets to an ab- 
surdly tiny Sun. 

He was trickling sweat again, 
and now he was also conscious of 

thirst. He put it out of his mind. 
There would be no drinking until 

he was out of his suit — if ever. 
Up a rung; up another; and 

another. How many were there? 
His hand slipped and he stared 
in disbelief at the glitter that 
showed under his light. 

Ice? 

Why not? The steam, incredi- 
bly hot as it was, would strike 
metal that was at nearly absolute 
zero. In the few split-seconds of 
thrust, there would not be time 
for the metal to warm above the 
freezing point of water. A sheet 
of ice would condense that would 
sublime slowly into the vacuum. 
It was the speed of all that hap- 
pened that prevented the fusion 
of the tubes and of the original 
water-container itself. 

His groping hand reached the 
end. Again the wrist-light. He 
stared with crawling horror at 
the steam nozzle, half an inch 
in diameter. It looked dead, 
harmless. But it always would, 
right up to the microsecond be- 
fore — 

Around it was the outer steam 
lock. It pivoted on a central hub 
that was springed on the portion 
toward space, screwed on the 



part toward the ship. The springs 
allowed it to give under the first 
wild thrust of steam pressure be* 
fore the ship's mighty inertia 
could be overcome. The steam 
was bled into the inner chamber, 
breaking the force of the thrust, 
leaving the total energy un- 
changed, but spreading it over 
time so that the hull itself was 
in that much less danger of being 
staved in. 

Mullen braced himself firmly 
against a rung and pressed 
against the outer lock so that it 

gave a little. It was stiff, but it 
didn't have to give much, just 
enough to catch on the screw. He 
felt it catch. 

He strained against it and 
turned it, feeling his body twist 
in the opposite direction. It held 
tight, the screw taking up the 
strain as he carefully adjusted the 
small control switch that allowed 
the springs to fall free. How well 
he remembered the books he had 
read ! 

He was in the interlock space 

now, which was large enough to 
hold a man comfortably, again 
for convenience in repairs. He 
could no longer be blown away 
from the ship. If the steam blast 
were turned on now, it would 
merely drive him against the in- 
ner lock — hard enough to crush 
him to a pulp. A quick death he 
would never feel, at least. 

Slowly, he unhooked his spare 



THE C-CHUTE 



31 



oxygen cylinder. There was only 
an inner lock between himself and 
the control room now. This lock 
opened outward into space so that 
the steam blast could only close 
it tighter, rather than blow it 
open. And it fitted tightly and 
smoothly. There was absolutely 
no way to open it from without. 

He lifted himself above the 
lock, forcing his bent back against 
the curved inner surface of the 
interlock area. It made breathing 
difficult. The spare oxygen cyl- 
inder dangled at a queer angle. 
He held its metal- mesh hose and 
straightened it, forcing it against 
the inner lock so that vibration 
thudded. Again — again — 

It would have to attract the at- 
tention of the Kloros. They would 
have to investigate. ~ 

He would have no way of tell- 
ing when they were about to do 
so. Ordinarily, they would first 
let air into the interlock to force 

the outer lock shut. But now the 
outer lock was on the central 
screw, well away from its rim. 
Air would suck about it ineffectu- 
ally, dragging out into space. 

Mullen kept on thumping. 
Would the Kloros look at the air- 
gauge, note that it scarcely lifted 
from zero, or would they take 
its proper working for granted? 

130RTER said, "He's been gone 
J"- an hour and a half." 
"I know/* said Stuart. 



They were all restless, jumpy, 
but the tension among themselves 
had disappeared. It was as though 
all the threads of emotion ex- 
tended to the hull of the ship. 

Porter was bothered. His phil- 
osophy of life had always been 
simple — take care of yourself be- 
cause no one will take care of you 
for you. It upset him to see it 
shaken. 

He said, "Do you suppose 
they've caught him?" 

"If they had, we'd hear about 
it," replied Stuart, briefly. 

Porter felt, with a miserable 
twinge, that there was little in- 
terest on the part of the others in 
speaking to him. He could under- 
stand it; he had not exactly 
earned their respect. For the mo- 
ment, a torrent of self-excuse 
poured through his mind. The 
others had been frightened, too. 
A man had a right to be afraid. 
No one likes to die. At least, he 
hadn't broken like Aristides Poly- 
orketes. He hadn't wept like Le- 
blanc. Ife — 

But there was Mullen, out there 
on the hull. 

"Listen," he cried, "why did he 
do it?" They turned to look at 
him, not understanding, but Por- 
ter didn't care. It bothered him to 
the point where it had to come 
out. "I want to know why Mullen 
is risking his life." 

"The man," said Windham, "is 
a patriot — " 



34 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



tt 



'No, none of that!'* ^Porter was 
almost hysterical. "That little fel- 
low has no emotions at all. He 
just has reasons and I want to 
know what those reasons are, be- 
cause—" 

He didn't finish the sentence. 
Could he say that if those reasons 
applied to a little middle-aged 
bookkeeper, they might apply 
even more forcibly to himself? 

Polyorketes said, "He's one 
brave damn little fellow." 

Porter got to his feet. "Listen/* 
he said, "he may be stuck out 
there. Whatever he's doing, he 

may not be able to finish it alone. 
I — I volunteer to go out .after 
him." 

He was shaking as he said it 
and he waited in fear for the sar- 
castic lash of Stuart's tongue. Stu- 
art was staring at him, probably 
with surprise, but Porter dared 
not meet his eyes to make cer- 
tain. 

Stuart said, mildly, "Let's give 
him another half-hour." 

Porter looked up, startled. 
There was no sneer on Stuart's 
face. It was even friendly. They 
all looked friendly. 

He said, "And then—" 

"And then all those who do 
volunteer will draw straws or 
something equally democratic. 
Who volunteers, besides Porter?" 

They all raised their hands; 
Stuart did, too. 

But Porter was happy. He had 



volunteered first. He was anxious 
for the half-hour to pass. 

IT caught Mullen by surprise. 
* The outer lock flew open and 
the long, thin, snakelike, almost 
headless neck of a Kloro sucked 
out, unable to fight the blast of 
escaping air. " 

Mullen's cylinder flew away, 
almost tore free. After one wild 
moment of frozen panic, he 
fought for it, dragging it above 
the air-stream, waiting as long 
as he dared to let the first fury 
die down as the air of the con- 
trol room thinned out, then bring- 
ing it down with force. 

It caught the sinewy neck 
squarely, crushing it. Mullen, 
curled above the lock, almost en- 
tirely protected from the stream, 
raised the cylinder again and 
plunging it down again, striking 
the head, mashing the staring 
eyes to liquid ruin. In the near- 
vacuum, green blood was pump- 
ing out of what was left of the 
neck. 

Mullen dared not vomit, but 
he wanted to. 

With eyes averted, he backed 
away, caught the outer lock with 
one hand and imparted a whirl. 
For several seconds, it maintained 
that whirl. At the end of the 
screw, the springs engaged auto- 
matically and pulled it shut. 
What was left of the atmosphere 
tightened it and the laboring 



THE C- CHUTE 



35 




pumps could now begin to fill the 
control room onee again. 

Mullen crawled over the man- 
gled Kloro and into the room. It 
was empty. 

He had barely time to notice 
that when he found himself on 
his knees. He rose with difficulty. 
The transition from non-gravity 
to gravity had taken him entirely 
by surprise. It was Klorian grav- 
ity, too, which meant that with 
this suit, he carried a fifty percent 
overload for his small frame. At 



kast, though, his heavy metal 
clogs no longer clung so exaspcr- 
atingly to the metal underneath. 
Within the ship, floors and wall 
were of cork- covered aluminum 

alloy. 

He circled slowly. The neckless 
Kloro had collapsed and lay with 
only an occasional twitch to show 
it had once been a living organ- 
ism. He stepped over it, distaste- 
fully, and drew the steam-tube 

lock shut. 

The room had a depressing bil- 



B 






>* 



6AIAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




* 

ious cast and the lights shone 
yellow-green. It was the Kloro at- 
mosphere, of .course. 

Mullen felt a twinge of surprise 
and reluctant admiration. The 
Kloros obviously had some way 
of treating materials so that they 
were impervious to the oxidizing 
effect of chlorine. Even the map 
of Earth on the wall, printed on 
glossy plastic-backed paper, 
seemed fresh and untouched. He 
approached, dra,wn by the fa- 
miliar outlines of the continents-** 



There was a flash of motion 
caught in the corner of his eyes. 
As quickly as he could in his 
heavy suit, he turned, then 
screamed. The Kloro he had 

i 

thought dead was rising to its 
feet. 

Its neck hung limp, an oozing 
mass of tissue mash, but its arms 
reached out blindly, and the ten- 
tacks about its chest vibrated 
rapidly like innumerable snakes' 
tongues. 

It was blind, of course. The de- 



THE C-CHUTi 



t - 



37 



struction of its neck-stalk had 
deprived it of all sensory equip- 
ment, and partial asphyxiation 
had disorganized it. But the brain 
remained whole and safe in the 
abdomen. It still lived. 

Mullen backed away. He cir- 
cled, trying clumsily and unsuc- 
cessfully to tiptoe, though he 
knew that what was left of the 
Kloro was also deaf. It blundered 
on its way, struck a wall, felt to 
the base and began sidling along 
it 

Mullen cast about desperately 
for a weapon, found nothing. 
There was the Kloro's holster, 
but he dared not reach for it. Why 
hadn't he snatched it at the very 
first? Fool! 

The door to the control room 
opened. It made almost no noise- 
Mullen turned, quivering. 

The other Kloro entered, un- 
harmed, entire. It stood in the 
doorway for a moment, chest - 
tendrils stiff and unmoving; its 
neck- stalk stretched forward; its 
horrible eyes flickering first at 
him and then at its nearly destd 
comrade. 

And them its hand moved 
quickly to its side. 

Mullen, without awareness, 
moved as quickly in pure reflex. 
He stretched out the hose of # the 
spare oxygen-cylinder, which, 
since entering the control room, 
he had replaced in its suit-clamp, 
and cracked the valve. He didn't 



bother reducing the pressure. He 
let it gush out unchecked so that 
he nearly staggered under the 
backward push. 

He could see the oxygen stream. 
It was a pale puff, billowing out 
amid the chlorine-green. It caught 
the Kloro with one hand on the 
weapon's holster. 

The Kloro threw its hands up. 
The little beak on its head-nodule 
opened alarmingly but noise- 
lessly. It staggered and fell, 
writhed for a moment, then lay 
still. Mullen approached and 
played the oxygen-stream upon 
its body as though he were ex- 
tinguishing a fire. And then he 
raised his heavy foot and brought 
it down upon the center of the 
neck-stalk and crushed it on the 
floor. 

He turned to the first. It was 
sprawled, rigid. 

The whole room was pale with 
oxygen, enough to kill whole le- 
gions of Kloros, and his cylinder 
was empty. 

Mullen stepped over the dead 
Kloro, out of the control room 
and along the main corridor to- 
ward the prisoners' room. 

Reaction had set in. He was 
whimpering in blind, incoherent 
fright. 

CTUART was tired. False hands 

*3 and all, he was at the controls 
of a ship once again. Two light 
cruisers of Earth were on the way. 



38 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



For better than twenty -four hours 
he had handled the controls vir- 
tually alone. He had discarded 
the chlorinating equipment, re- 
rigged the old atmospherics, lo- 
cated the ship's position in space, 
tried to plot a course, and sent 
out carefully guarded signals — 
which had worked. 

So when the door of the control 
room opened, he was a little an- 
noyed. He was too tired to play 
conversational handball. Then he 
turned, and it was Mullen step- 
ping inside. 

Stuart said, "For God's sake, 

get back into bed, Mullen!" 

Mullen said, ( Tm tired of 
sleeping, even though I never 
thought I would be a while ago." 

"How do you feel?" 

"I'm stiff all over. Especially 
my side." He grimaced and stared 
involuntarily around. 

"Don't look for the Kloros," 
Stuart said. "We dumped the 
poor devils." He shook his head. 
"I was sorry for them. To them- 
selves, they 9 re the human beings, 
you know, and we're the aliens. 

Not that I'd- rather they'd killed 
you, you understand." 

"I understand." 

Stuart turned a sidelong glance 
upon the little man who sat look- 
ing at the map of Earth and went 
on, "I owe you a particular and 
personal apology, Mullen. I didn't 
think much of you." 

"It was your privilege," said 



Mullen in his dry voice. There 
was no feeling in it. 

"No, it wasn't. It is no one's 
privilege to despise another. It is 
only a hard-won right after long 
experience." 

"Have you been thinking about 
this?" 

"Yes, all day. Maybe I can't 
explain. It's these hands." He held 
them up before him, spread out. 
"It was hard knowing that other 
people had hands of their own. I 
had to hate them for it. I always 
had to do my best to investigate 
and belittle their motives, point 
up their deficiencies, expose their 
stupidities. I had to do anything 
that would prove to myself that 
they weren't worth envying." 

Mullen moved restlessly. "This 
explanation is not necessary." 

"It is. It is!" Stuart felt his 
thoughts intently, strained to put 
them into wdrds. "For years J*ve 
abandoned hope of finding any 
'decency in human beings. Then 
you climbed into the C- chute/* 

"You had better understand,** 
said Mullen, "that I was moti- 
vated by practical and selfish con- 
siderations. I will not have you 
present me to myself as a hero." : 

"I wasn't intending to. I know 
that you would do nothing with- ' 
out a reason. It was what your 
action did to the rest of us. It 
turned a collection of phonies and 
fools into decent people. And not 
by magic either. They were de- 



THE C-CHUTE 



3* 



cent all aloHg. It was just that 
they needed something to live up 
to and you supplied it. And — I'm 
one of them. I'll have to live up 
to you, too. For the rest of my 
life, probably/' 

Mullen turned away uncom- 
fortably. His hand straightened 
his sleeves, which were not in the 
least twisted. His finger rested on 
the map* 

He said, "I was born in Rich- 
mond, Virginia, you know. Here 
it is. I'll be going there first* 
Where were you born?" 

"Toronto," said Stuart. 

"That's right here. Not very far 
apart on the map, is it?" 

Stuart said, "Would you tell 
me something?" 

"If I can." 

"Just why did you go out 
there?" 

Mullen's precise mouth pursed. 
He said, dryly, "Wouldn't my 
rather prosaic reason ruin the in- 
spirational effect?" 

"Call it intellectual cariosity. 
Each of the rest of us-had such 
obvious motives. Porter was 
scared to death of being interned; 
Leblanc wanted to get back to his 
sweetheart; Polyorketes wanted 
to kill Kloros; and Windham was 
a patriot according to his lights. 
As for me, I thought of myself as 
a noble idealist, I'm afraid. Yet 
in none of us was the motivation 
strong enough to get lis into a 
spacesuit and out the C-chute* 



Then what made you do it, you, 
of all people?" 

"Why the phrase, 'of all peo- 
ple'?" 

"Don't be offended, but you 
seem devoid of all emotion." 

"Do I?" Mullen's voice did not 
change. It remained precise and 
soft, yet somehow a tightness had 
entered it. "That's only training, 
Mr. Stuart, and self- discipline ; 
not nature- A small man can have 
no respectable emotions. Is there 
anything more ridiculous than a 
man like myself in a state of 

rage? I'm five feet and one-half 
inch tall, and one hundred and 
two pounds in weight, if you care 
for exact figures. I insist on the 
half inch and the two pounds. 

"Can I be dignified? Proud? 
Draw myself to my full height 
without inducing laughter? Where 
can I meet a woman who will not 
dismiss me instantly with a gig- 
gle? Naturally, I've had to learn 
to dispense with external display 
of emotion. 

"You talk about deformities. 
No one would notice your hands 

or know they were different, if 
you weren't so eager to tell people 
all about it the instant you meet 
them. Do you think that the eight 
inches of height I do not have 
can be hidden? That it is not the 
first and, in most cases, the only 
thing about me that a person will 
notice?" 

Stuart was ashamed. He had 



40 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



invaded a privacy he ought not 
have. He said, "I'm sorry," 

"Why?" 

"I should not have forced you 
to speak of this. I -should have 
seen for myself that you— that 
you — " 

"That I what? Tried to prove 
myself? Tried to show that while 
I might be small in body, I held 
within it a giant's heart?" 

"I would not have put it mock- 
ingly." 

"Why not? It's a foolish idea, 
and nothing like it is the reason I 
did what I did. What would I 
have accomplished if that's what 
was in my mind? Will they take 
me to Earth now and put me up 
before the television cameras — 
pitching them low, of course, to 
catch my face, or standing me on 
a chair — and pin medals on me?" 

"They are quite likely to do 
exactly that." 

"And what good would it do 
me? They would say, 'Gee, and 
he's such a little guy.' And after- 
ward, what? Shall I tell each man 
I meet, 'You know, I'm the fellow 
they decorated for incredible 
valor last month?' How many 
medals, Mr. Stuart, do you sup- 
pose it would take to put eight 
inches and sixty pounds on me?" 

Stuart said, "Put that way, I 
see your point." 

Mullen was speaking a trifle 
more quickly now; a controlled 
h^at had entered fcis words, 



warming them to just a tepid 
room temperature. "There were 
days when I thought I would 
show them, the mysterious 'them* 
that includes all the world. I was 
going to leave Earth and carve 
out worlds for myself. I would be 
a new and even smaller Napoleon. 
So I left Earth and went to Arc- 
turus. And what could I do on 
Arcturus that I could not have 
done on Earth? Nothing. I bal- 
ance books. So I am past the 
vanity, Mr. Stuart, of trying to 
stand on tiptoe." 

"Then why did you do it?" 
"I left Earth when I was twen- 
ty-eight and came to the Arc- 
turian System. I've been there 
ever since. This trip was to be 

my first vacation, my first visit 

back to Earth in all that time. I 
was going to stay on Earth for 
six months. The Kloros instead 
captured us and would have kept 
us interned indefinitely. But I 
couldn't — I couldn't let them stop 
me from traveling to Earth. No 
matter what the risk, I had to 
prevent their interference. It was- 
n't love of woman, or fear, or 
hate, or idealism of any sort. It 
was stronger than any of those." 

He stopped, and stretched out a 
hand as though to caress the map 
on the wall. 

"Mr. Stuart," Mullen asked 
quietly, "haven't you ever been 
homesick?" 

—ISAAC ASIMOY 



JHf C-CHUTE 



4% 



pleasant 



Where better to prove for clues than in a 
criminal's dreams? But there are all sorts 
and shapes of dreams r including nightmares! 





OUR wife is beautiful 
and a charming hostess 
and very interesting" 
the visitor bubbled. 

"Isn't she?" Gniss said. "I mar- 
ried her only last year, I was 
especially taken with her dar^c 
hair. That's extremely rare, yo^ 

know.- •.:■•.■. !i tiu.i i I 
They walked into Gniss's most 

42 



private office, and soft lights 
came on. The visitor gazed 
around, surprised. 

"I see you are looking for the 
desk or table. Men of my rank 
don't use any/' Gniss said. 

There were not even chairs, 
only tjie couches affected in late 
years by fashionable; peppfo. 
Gniss dropped onto one, grunting, 

GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



dreams 



By RALPH ROBBN 

Illustrated by I WISH 




► 



end waved the visitor to another. 

"Do you know what this divan 
I'm lying on is covered with?" 
Gniss did not wait for an answer. 
""Cloth made from the cocoons 
of moth larvae by an incredibly 
ancient and expensive method." 

The visitor shook his head in 
wonderment. The cauch he w*is 

■ 

on was upholstered more modest- 



ly in plastic— of the very best 
quality, of course. 

"It must be convenient to live 
right where you work," the visitor 
said. 

They had just dined in Gniss's 
apartment, the official residence 
of the Chief Watcher. The apart- 
ment Was a grand affair; since 
the time that Gniss had risen tt> 



4 






' 



i I 



4 t 



■ , 1 



PLEASANT DREAMS 



,. / 



43 



Chief Watcher, it had spread 
through a whole floor of the im- 
mense building. 

"My wife says I might not 
work at night so much if I lived 
farther away/' Gniss pointed out, 

"Is there much to do at night?" 

the visitor asked. 

•'I don't have my title for noth- 
ing! Even while they sleep, we 
watch them. , 

"You mean you put micro- 
phones under suspects' beds and 
listen to them talk in their sleep?". 
The visitor smiled to show that 
he was joking. 

Gniss bellowed and shook, sur- 
prising the visitor, wlio thought 
the response was more than his 
feeble little joke deserved. But 
the good-natured laughter was 
something to remember, he noted 
for his mental scrapbook. At 
school, Gniss had been rather a 
dour boy, 

"My dear fellow," Gniss said 
when he had control of his voice 
again, "they were doing that cen- 
turies before the first dispersal of 
man. Look at this!" 

He shifted on his couch and 
began to play with a little jew- 
eled wheel projecting from the 
wall. A section of the floor — at 
least a quarter of the large room 
— rose on slender pillars to make 
a platform. Under the platform, 
the purple floor appeared un- 
changed. 

Gniss rolled his heavy body on 



one side and talked, it seemed to 
the visitor, to his pillow. 

"Give me Blor," he said. 

The visitor could see a faint 
haze eddy above the platform. 
Nothing else happened. 

"Oh, well," said Gniss. "He 
rarely sleeps in his own bed— 
that's what makes him useful. 
But he's only a double spy." 

The visitor's eyes were wide. 
Only a double spy! 

"111 show you something really 
big," Gniss said. He spoke gently 
to the pillow: "Give me Stak." 

"Not — " the visitor blurted. 

"Correct," Gniss said. "The fa- 
mous rebel." 

"But I thought—" 

"That we couldn't catch up 
with him? That's what we let out 
for the public, and,«naturally, for 
him. But we ran him down, and 
now we are watching him in a 
hundred different ways. If we ar- 
rested him, he would undoubted- 
ly kill himself. That's something 
that even my watchers can't stop 
a determined man from doing. 
But before he dies, we want to 
find out who the traitor was that 
kept him informed of the govern- 
ment's plans during the critical 
time last year." 

The visitor hadn't known, of 
course, that Stak had made use 
of an agent in official circles, but 
he was discreet enough to say 
nothing. It frightened him a little 
to hear such portentous matters. 



44 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



yet it flattered him, too, that his 
old school friend would be so 
open with him. 

The haze above the platform 
deepened, and shone with internal 
light. The platform itself began 
to glow and to vibrate on its deli- 
cate pillars. Or perhaps it did not 
move; perhaps it was an illusion 
from the shimmering light. 

The visitor did not know what 
to expect, but he felt a warm rip- 
ple of excitement. He glanced at 

Gniss. His host was watching the 
platform with an indefinable ex- 
pression, ill which there was at 
least some official — or was it 
fashionable? — weariness. 

He has seen so much, the vis- 
itor thought, turning back to the 
platform, 

Vaporous waves of light were 
rolling straight up, to dissipate; 
the visitor did not know where. 
The waves split and were less like 
waves and then were not waves 
at all. They were vague forms, 
gray and colored: some suggested 

people; some suggested thing 
Continually, they changed in 
shape and in size and in color. 

"They are dreams!" the visitor 
exclaimed. 

"Stak's dreams" Gniss said. 
"Now w^ are getting some con- 
tinuity. Look." 

"Where is Stak?" 
<4 Oh, you rarely see the dream- 
er. You see through his eyes. 

That woman — the old woman 



with the young face; it's an odd 
angle, and the water and the 
steam and the bare arms — he 
must be dreaming he's a child 
and she's giving him a bath. It's 

unfortunate she didn't drown 
him." 

The woman melted, faded, and 
a green billow was a wood and 
was separating into trees, and 
there was a kind of park. A lamb 
with a very intelligent face walk* 
ed around a tree. Suddenly the 
lamb opened its mouth and cried 
like a human baby. * 

The visitor was startled. It was 
the first sound from the dream 
projection. 

"You mean you can hear the 
dreams too?" he asked naively. 

"Of course, my friend. Our 

technical people are talented." 
"I should say! Tell me, how is 

it all done?" 

"Well, we were working 

along at a telepathic instrument, 

i 

which isn't quite perfected yet. 
Thoughts, you know, are pro- 
duced by electrical impulses in 
the brain and these induce weak 
electromagnetic fields. Our theory 
was to build up the patterns of 
visual and auditory thoughts 
from the electromagnetic fields. 
For some reason the instrument 
hasn't worked right as a general 
device, but we found out by ac- 
cident that it worked perfectly 
for dreams. Dreams are a form 
of thought, but there is a subtle 



PLEASANT DREAMS 



45 



difference in the fields,** 

"Marvelous?" exclaimed the 
visitor. He had not noticed the 
metamorphosis of the technical 
people into "we." 

Wait till I tell my children, the 
visitor thought. But maybe he 
had better not say anything at 
all about his call on Gniss. He 
smiled as he remembered how his 
children had tried to talk him out 
of visiting his old schoolmate. 

"Visit the museums," they had 
told him. "The art galleries. Go 
inside that big statue of Kumat. 
See the v insect zoo — it's a won- 
derful place and very education- 
al." The youngsters had been to 
the capital twice, their father 
never, and they were very know- 
ing. "There's plenty to do with- 
out looking for trouble " his boy 
Trenr had insisted. 

"But Gniss and I were great 
friends at school, and Pm a re- 
spectable citizen. Why should 
Gniss cause me trouble?" he had 
asked, puzzled. 

Images came into being on the 
stage, and vanished, in a bizarre 
panorama. Uniformed watchers, 
already taller than a dream roof, 
grew still taller until their heads 
were lost in the real ceiling. Their 
monstrous hands held hoop- 
shaped mind-rippers. A terrified 
voice cried, "No — no — no — " over 
and over. The word filled the 
room. 

The visitor felt a surge of pity 



i 



46 



for the trapped outlaw, lost now 
in the nightmare of fear. Yet he 
said scornfully, as much to him- 
self as to Gniss, "He's a coward 
after all, isn't he?" 

"Everyone's a coward/' Gniss 
replied. "But, awake, Stak is less 
a coward than most." 

The nightmare dissolved into 
confused patterns ; the terrified 
voice dropped to a thin, wordless 
babble. The dream projection fo- 
cused to a sort of cellar. Twenty 
or thirty men and women were 
sitting on the floor. Their faces 
were turned toward Gniss and 
the visitor. 

"He's dreaming about a meet- 
ing, and I think he's making a 
speech," Gniss said. "This is like- 
ly to be useful. Naturally it's 

being watched in the regular 
monitoring chambers. Our moni- 
tors will try to identify everybody 
at the meeting. There are diffi- 
culties. Sometimes several faces 
are blended into one in a dream. 

"Look at those expressions f 
The sentimental fool thinks all 
his followers are noble souls. See 
that skinny fellow to the left? He 
positively drips nobility of souL 
And that woman over there? She 
belongs in heaven. And will get 
there soon, no doubt," Gniss 
added with a laugh. 

The visitor found himself say- 
ing, "But dreams are all pretty 
imuch 1 mixed up. Isn't it possible 
he might put a chance acqfuain- 

6ALAXY SCIENCE FlCtlON 



tance at one of those dream meet- 
ings? Or someone he saw on the 
street? Couldn't it happen to 
anybody?" 

"We try to be as fair as we 
can. But you know the old say- 
ing: 'It is far better that ten in- 
nocent men be punished than that 
one guilty man go free/ " 

" That's very true," the visitor 
said earnestly, "and everyone 
must be assumed to be guilty 
until he can prove his innocence." 

Gniss motioned for him to be 
quiet- Stale's muttering voice was 
gaining strength. It sounded more 
like language, and soon the vis- 
itor could pick out words. 

"... choose . . . happy and 
free . . . man's will . . . life . , . 
sacrifice . . . era . . . Gniss . . ." 

The word was unmistakable. 

Gniss roared his laughter. "Pm 
even in their dreams. But I sup- 
pose this must be boring you. 
Shall I turn it off? I can always 
have it repeated by the recording 
system, if I need to see it later." 
His hand was at the little jeweled 
wheel. 

"I'm enjoying it," the visitor 
protested. 

"Would you rather take a walk 
through some of the installations? 
We work around the clock, you 
know. We could look in at the 
classification laboi&tory where 

We catalogue everybody by the 
positions of the atoms in their 
chromosomes. Give the techni- 



cian a piece of your fingernail or 
a bit of hair or a scraping of skin 
— anything that contains at least 
one whole cell — and in five min- 
utes he'll tell you your name. Or 
we could visit the mind -ripper 
range where we train recruits." 

"I'd rather not see that," the 
visitor said. In the back of his 
mind was a rumor about the 
mind-ripper range that he had 
tried not to listen to. 

"The targets for today didn't 
prove their innocence," Gniss ex- 
plained drily. His hand was still 
at the wheel. "Well?" 

"Let's watch it a little more,** 
the visitor said. "It's changing to 
something new." 

"H'mm, so it is. This looks in- 
teresting." 

It was the park where the lamb 
had walked around the tree and 
cried. But there was no lamb: 
there was a young woman, walk- 
ing, alone. She was wearing a 
long cloak of a kind out of fash* 
ion for several years, but, the 
visitor thought, more becoming 
than the short cloaks the women 
were wearing now. Her yellow 
hair was loosely tied with a filmy- 
scarf. Her face was more beauti- 
ful than any real face the visitor 
had ever seen. 

It was a face of delicate sym- 
metry; of early love; of high in- 
telligence. 

Gniss raised himself and leaned 
on his elbow. "We know that Stale 



PLEASANT DREAMS 



47 



hasn't had a woman for some 
time, at least since we closed in. 
Watch, she'll be taking that cloak 
off pretty soon — and the rest of 
her clothes, too, no doubt. That's 
usual in dreams." 

The visitor was shocked, but 
he tried to keep from showing it. 
"Be as good as the nakeds I used 
to go to when I was a young fel- 
low," he said bravely. 

As a matter of fact, he had al- 
ways gone only to the half- 
nnkeds and had taken his wife 
Naid. both before they were mar- 
ried and afterwards. People had 
laughed at their being together 
so much, but they had had a fine 
life together. Then Naid had died 
while the children were still 
small. He wondered whether he 
ever dreamed of Naid. He never 
could remember his own dreams, 
probably because he generally 
jumped out of bed so quickly and 
went about the day's business. 

On the dream stage, the image 
of a man was standing beside the 
girl. The man was young and 
was wearing the kind of clothes 
that students wore, and he was 
holding the girl's hand. 

''It's Stak/' Gniss said. "This is 
the less common kind of dream, 
though usual enough, where the 
dreamer seems to be watching 
himself from the outside. We get 
a full view of him then and we 
see his actions. It's the kind of 
dream that's clearest and gives 



us the best information. I recog- 
nize the girl now — Lell. She used 
to be Stak's sweetheart." He said 
the word contemptuously. "She 
was executed when he was first 
joining the revolt." 

The dream couple embraced in 
pantomime: The scene was very 
real, and it was hard for the 
visitor to remember that these 
were only images from a dream- 
ing brain. His knowledge that the 
girl was dead added a strange 
quality to the scene. 

While he was thinking that this 
bright girl had been given to the 
sacred death birds — if indeed her 
body had been treated with such 
respect — Stak cried out: "It's 
you, Lell! But you're dead!" 

Lell answered, "I've come back, 

darling. I've come back for your 

sake." 

Now she did unfasten her 

cloak. Gniss chuckled and the 
visitor tried to chuckle as Stak 
was helping her to take off her 
clothes with frantic hands. But 
in a moment she was dressed 
again and beyond his reach. 

"I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm 
dead," she was saying, and then 
she was not Lell at all, but an- 
other woman. The cloak she was 
wearing was short and her head 
was bare in the new style — and 
her hair was <Iark. 

Gniss made a noise that could 
have been a breath, but sounded 
more like a growl or a cry. 



M 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



It was a noise that made sweat 
extrude from the visitor's fore- 
head, made his throat tighten as 
if he would never swallow again. 
He saw himself in the great statue 
of Kumat with other middle-aged 
tourists. He saw himself watch- 
ing the fishes in the Luminous 
Pond. He saw himself at his desk 
in the criteria room, where he 
had worked for thirty years. 

He saw the sacred death birds 
circle and lower. 

The visitor made an effort to 
collect himself. He must decide 
whether it was better to speak or 
to be silent, to go on looking or 
to turn away. He did not know. 
The man on the couch of cocoon 
cloth was no longer his old 
schoolfellow; he was the Chief 
Watcher. 

On the stage, the dark dream 
woman moved closer to Stak. "I 
love you too, Stak. I am not Lell. 
Lell is dead. I am Orv. But I 
love you, too." 

Stak said, "To love me is to 
die. Even to know me is to die." 

"What difference does that 
make? We are all going to die 
some day. Why not die to bring 
a time when others can be. free? 
Happy and free — unhappy and 
free — free!" 

"My wife," Gniss said, in a 
terrible voice. "My wife Orv " 

Now it was in the open, and 
the visitor knew he had to speak. 
He turned to Gniss. "It's a trick, 



of course. He got hold of a pic- 
ture somehow. He knows his 
dreams are being watched, and 
rebels must have found some way 
of controlling their dreams. It can 
be done, you know. You con- 
sciously pick a subject or a per- 
son—" 

"Be quiet," the Chief Watcher 
said, and the visitor regretted 
that he had spoken. 

Gniss never took his eyes from 
the dream projection, but the vis- 
itor would not look. Already, he 
had seen too much. 

He could not help hearing, 
though. Dream-Stak and dream- 
Orv spoke lovingly, eagerly. 
Their words grew more intense, 
were blurred, became rhythmic 
sobs. 

Then there was silence. The 
visitor looked again. The images 
were gone. The lifeless platform 
was sinking into the floor. 

Gniss said in a cold, faraway 
voice, "I will have to dispose of 
them. And of you, I am afraid. 
You may have heard the proverb 
of the North Tribes: 'Who sees 
what the gods want hidden had 
better been born blind.' I was at 
fault in bothering, childishly 
enough, to impress an old friend 
— but I have got where I am by 
making sure that other people 
expiate my faults." 

"Surely, Gniss, you don't be- 
lieve it. You must realize it's a 
trick." The visitor's voice was 



PLEASANT DREAMS 



49 



t 

shrill with fear. 

"It's not a trick. There were 

several reports, ' ambiguously 
phrased. I would not understand 
them; or, if I understood them, 
I would not believe them." 

The visitor thought again of 
his children's advice. If only he 
had listened to them! He pictured 
them in his mind: his son, nine- 
teen-year-old Trenr: his daugh- 
ter, sixteen-year-old Zhom. They 
were so wise, yet so foolish in 
many ways, and so young. Know- 
ing he would have to return to 
them, he grew calm. 

He rose from the couch and, 
speaking slowly and steadily, said 
to the Chief Watcher: "You told 
me yourself that Stale's dreams 
were shown in the regular moni- 
toring chambers, that they were 
recorded. And there are the re- 
ports you mention. How can this 
thing be kept secret? A hundred 
people must know about it be- 
sides me. A hundred and one 
can't make it any worse. 

"Do you really think that by 
killing me you can stop the story 
from reaching high men in the 
Government? I am only an or- 
dinary citizen, but even I have 
heard of the rivalry among you 
powerful men. ^ { 

"Gniss, you are* destroyed. De- 
stroying me won't save you. 
Nothing can save you. You may 
as well let me go home." 

Gniss reacted in an astonishing 



way. He let loose his bellowing 
laugh. 

"You have led too obscure a 
life," he said, choking. 'You 
could have made a career for 
yourself here. You have just 
achieved something that calls Tor 
unusual talent — you've won a 
point simply by stating the ob- 
vious truth. I was only fooling 
myself, I see now. As you say, I 
am destroyed. I'll kill myself, of 

course." 

Gniss put his hand to the jew- 
eled wheel. The red and blue and 
green gems twinkled between his 
fat fingers. 

"Go out that way." Gniss said, 
and the visitor turned and saw 
that the wall had opened to a 
small elevator. "It will take you 
to an unguarded door." 

"Good-by," said the visitor. 
"An old friend's good-by. I know 
I will never see you again." 

"Never," Gniss said gravely. 
"Good-by, old schoolfellow." 

There were tears in the vis- 
itor's eyes as he walked into the 
elevator. As soon as he had en- 
tered, the door automatically 
closed, and the elevator automat- 
ically carried him to a lower 
floor, where it automatically and 
completely disposed of him. 

Nothing was left for the sacred 
death birds. 

-Little people, little minds," 
Gniss said. "As if killing oneself 
were all a man could do." 



50 



GALAXY SCIENC E FICTIO 



Then he spoke to his pillow 
quietly, giving orders for a hun- 
dred deaths. His wife's, first; then 
Stale's; then . . . 

When he was through the list, 
he reconsidered and made it two 

hundred. 

The hour was late and Gniss 
was tired when his mistress 
greeted him in her house, in an 
old quarter of the city. 

They embraced. 

"Dear girl, dear Jenj," Gniss 

said. "I have had to work late. 
It's been a difficult day and I'm 
exhausted." 

"Poor darling," said Jenj. "Lie 
down right now and rest.*' 

Gniss stretched out on a couch, 
grunting comfortably. The plastic 
felt a bit chilly, and he thought, 
I'll have to find her some of that 
primitive larval stuff. 

A young man and a young 
woman walked in from another 
room. They were carrying small 
mind-rippers. 

"Get out of the way," the man 
said to Jenj, 

Jenj moved quickly. 

Gniss jumped to his feet. He 



started to say something, but the 
full force of two mind-rippers 
stopped him. His body fell back 
on the couch. 

Jenj began to cry. 

"What's the matter, Jenj?" the 
man said. "Think of Stale. Think 
of Orv. I have never taken part in 
an execution that I regret less." 

"You're not a woman," Jenj 
said, still crying. "After all, a 
woman can't simulate for so long 
without developing some emo- 
tional attachment, even for a 
monster like that." 

But she made an effort to be 
stern. 

"Who is going to take Stale's 
place?" she asked, as if nothing 
now remained to be said about 
Gniss. 

The man answered, "It's not 
definite yet. Maybe Trenr. He's 

young, but Stak thought highly 
of him. He's very capable." 

"And close - mouthed," the 
woman said. "Even his father, 
poor innocent, never knew Trenr 
was one of us. He was paying 
Gniss a social call. Imagine!" 

— RALPH ROBIN 



Don't Miss the Smashing Conclusion of . . - 

THE PUPPET MASTERS 

By ROBERT A. HEINLEIN 

, . . in next month's issue! With Heinlein plotting like a superb chess 
player and writing with the voltage of a cyclotron . . . don't bet that 
you can guess the climax! You'll lose your bet! 



PLEASANT DREAMS 



51 



A M 





O N 



By WILLIAM L BADE 




52 



GALAXY SCIENCE FiCTIO 



To the men of the future, the scientific goals of today w*re 
as incomprehensible as the ancient quest for the Hoiy Grail! 



THERE was a thump. Mait- 
land stirred, came half 
awake, and opened his 
eyes. The room was dark except 
where a broad shaft of moonlight 

from the open window fell on the 
foot of his bed, Outside, the resi- 
dential section of the Reserva- 
tion slept silently under the pale 
illumination of the full Moon. 
He guessed sleepily that it was 



about three o'clock. 

What had he heard? He had a 
definite impression that the sound 
had come from within the room. 
It had sounded like someone 
stumbling into a chair, or — ■ 

Something moved in the dark- 
ness on the other side of the 
room. Maitland started to sit up 
and it was as though a thousand 
volts had shorted his brain . . . 




illustrated by L WOROMAY 



BITION 



53 



This time, he awoke more nor- 
mally. He opened his eyes, looked 
through the window at a section 
of azure sky, listened to the sing- 
ing of birds somewhere outside. 
A beautiful day. In the middle of 
the process of stretching his 
rested muscles, arms extended 
back, legs tensed, he froze, look- 
ing up — for the first time really 
seeing the ceiling. He turned his 
head, then rolled off the bed, wide 
awake. 

This wasn't his room! 

The lawn outside wasn't part 
of the Reservation! Where the 
labs and the shops should have 
been, there was deep prairie grass, 
then a green ocean pushed into 
waves by the breeze stretching to 

the horizon. This wasn't the Cali- 
fornia desert! Down the hill, 
where the liquid oxygen plant 
ought to have been, a river wound 
across the scene, almost hidden 
beneath its leafy roof of huge 
ancient trees. 

Shock contracted Maitland' s 
diaphragm and spread through 
his body. His breathing quick- 
ened. Now he remembered what 
had happened during the night, 
the sound in the darkness, the 
dimly seen figure, and then — 
what? Blackout . . • 

Where was he? Who had 
brought him here? For what pur- 
pose? 

He thought he knew the answer 

to the last of those questions. As a 



member of the original atomic 
reaction -motor team, he pos- 
sessed information that other 
military powers would very much 
like to obtain. It was absolutely 
incredible that anyone had man- 
aged to abduct him from the 
heavily guarded confines of the 
Reservation, yet someone had 
done it. How? 

TTE pivoted to inspect the room. 
-*--*- Even before his eyes could 
take in the details, he had the 
impression that there was some- 
thing wrong about it. To begin 
with, the style was unfamiliar. 
There were no straight lines or 
sharp corners anywhere. The 
walls were paneled in featureless 

blue plastic and the doors were 

smooth surfaces of metal, half 
ellipses, without knobs. The flow- 
ing lines of the chair and table, 
built apparently from an alu- 
minum alloy, somehow gave the 
impression of arrested motion. 
Even after allowances were made 
for the outlandish design, some- 
thing about the room still was 
not right. 

His eyes returned to the doors, 
and he moved over to study the 
nearer one. As he had noticed, 
there was no knob, but at the 
right of this one, at about waist 
level, a push-button projected out 
of the wall. He pressed it; the 
door slid aside and disappeared. 
Maitland glanced in at the dis- 



54 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



closed bathroom, then went over 
to look at the other door. 

There was no button beside 
this one, nor any other visible 
means of causing it to open. 

YBa filed, he turned again and 
looked at the large open window 
— and realized what it was that 
had made the room seem so 
queer. 

It did not look like a jail cell. 
There were no bars . . . 

Striding across the room, he 
lunged forward to peer out and 
violently banged his forehead. He 
staggered back, grimacing with 
pain, then reached forward cau- 
tious fingers and discovered a 
hard sheet of stuff so transparent 
that he had not even suspected its 

presence. Not glass! Glass was 

never this clear or strong. A plas- 
tic, no doubt, but one he hadn't 
heard of. Security sometimes had 
disadvantages. 

He looked out at the peaceful 
vista of river and prairie. The 
character of the sunlight seemed 
to indicate that it was afternoon. 
He became aware that he was 
hungry. 

Where the devil could this 
place be? And — muscles tight- 
ened about his empty stomach — 
what was in store for him here? 

He stood trembling, acutely 
conscious that he was afraid and 
helpless, until a flicker of motion 
at the bottom of the hill near the 
river, drew his attention. Pressing 



his nose against the window, he 
strained his eyes to see what it 
was. 

A man and a woman were com- 
ing toward him up the hill. Evi- 
dently they had been swimming, 
for each had a towel; the man's 
was hung around his neck, and 

the woman was still drying her 
bobbed black hair. 

Maitland speculated on the 
possibility that this might be 
Sweden; he didn't know of any 
other country where public bath- 
ing at this time of year was cus- 
tomary. However, that prairie 
certainly didn't look Scandina- 
vian . . . 

As they came closer, he saw 
that both of them had dark uni- 
form suntans and showed striking 

muscular development, like per- 
sons who had trained for years 
with weights. They vanished be- 
low his field of view, presumably 
into the building. 

He sat down on the edge of the 
cot and glared helplessly at the 
floor. u 

A BOUT half an hour later, the 
■**■ door he couldn't open slid 
aside into the wall. The man 
Maitland had seen outside, now 
clad in gray trunks and sandals, 
stood across the threshold looking 
in at him. Maitland stood up and 
stared back, conscious suddenly 

that in his rumpled pajamas he 
•made an unimpressive figure. 



AMBITION 



5$ 



The fellow looked about forty- 
five. The first details Maitland 
noticed were the forehead, which 
was quite broad, and the calm, 
clear eyes. The dark hair, white 
at the temples, was combed back, 
still damp from swimming. Be- 
low, there was a wide mouth and 
a firm, rounded chin. 

This man was intelligent, Mait- 
land decided, and extremely sure 
of himself. 

Somehow, the face didn't go 
with the rest of him. The man 
had the head of a thinker, the 
body^of a trained athlete — an un- 
usual combination. 

Impassively, the man said, 
"My name is Swarts. You want 
to know where you are. I am not 
going to tell you." He had an ac- 
cent, European, but otherwise un- 
identifiable. Possibly German. 
Maitland opened his mouth to 
protest, but Swarts went on, 
'•However, you're free to do all 
the guessing you want." Still 
there was no suggestion of a 
smile. 

"Now, these are the rules. 
You'll be here for about a week. 
You'll have three meals a day, 
served in this room. You will not 
be allowed to leave it except when 
accompanied by myself. You will 
not be harmed in any way, pro- 
vided you cooperate. And you can 
forget the silly idea that we want 
your childish secrets about rocket 
motors." Maitland's heart jump- 



ed. "My reason for bringing you 
here is altogether different. I want 
to give you some psychological 
tests . . ." 

"Are you crazy?" Maitland 
asked quietly. "Do you realize 
that at this moment one of the 
greatest hunts in history must be 
going on? I'll admit I'm baffled 
as to where we are and how you 
got me here — but it seems to me 
that you could have found some- 
one less conspicuous to give your 
tests to." 

Briefly, then, Swarts did smile. 

"They won't find you," he said. 
Now, come with me. 1 



** 



i* 



AFTER that outlandish cell, 
Swarts 7 laboratory looked 
rather commonplace. There was 
something like a surgical cot in 
the center, and a bench along one 
wall supported several electronics 
cabinets. A couple of them had 
cathode ray tube screens, and 

they all presented a normal com- 
plement of meters, pilot lights, 
and switches. Cables 'from them 
ran across the ceiling and came 
to a focus above the high flat cot 
in the center of the room. 

"Lie down," Swarts said. When 
Maitland hesitated, Swarts add- 
ed, "Understand one thing — the 
more you cooperate, the easier 
things will be for you. If neces- 
sary, I will use coercion. I can 
get all my results against your 
will, if I must. I would prefer 



56 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



not to. Please don't make me.*' 

"What's the idea?" Maitland 
asked. "What is all this?" 

Swarts hesitated, though not, 
Maitland astonishedly felt, to 
evade an answer, but to find the 
proper words. "You can think of 
it as a lie detector. These instru- 
ments will record your reactions 
to the tests I give you. That is as 
much as you need to know. Now 
lie down." 

Maitland stood there for a mo- 
ment, deliberately relaxing his 
tensed muscles. "Make me." 

If Swarts was irritated, he 
didn't show it. "That was the first 
test," he said. "Let me put it an- 
other way. I would appreciate it 
a lot if you'd lie down on this cot. 
I would like to test my appar- 
atus." 

Maitland shook his head stub- 
bornly. 

"I see," Swarts said. "You want 
to find out what you're up 
against." 

He moved so fast that Mait- 
land couldn't block the blow. It 
was to the solar plexus, just hard 
enough to double him up, fighting 
for breath. He felt an arm under 
his back, another behind his 
knees. Then he was on the cot. 
When he was able to breath 
again, there were straps across his 
chest, hips, knees, ankles, and 
arms, and Swarts was tightening 
a clamp that held his head im- 
movable. 



Presently, a number of tiny 

electrodes were adhering to his 
temples and to other portions of 
his body, and a minute micro- 
phone was clinging to the skin 

over his heart. These devices ter- 
minated in cables that hung from 
the ceiling. A sphygmomanome- 
ter sleeve was wrapped tightly 
around his left upper arm, its 
rubber tube trailing to a small 
black box clamped to the frame 
of the cot. Another cable left the 
box and joined the others. 

So — Maitland thought — Swarts 
could record changes in his skin 
potential, heartbeat, and blood 
pressure : the involuntary re- 
sponses of the body to stimuli. 

The question was, what were 
the stimuli to be? 

"Your name," said Swarts, "is 
Robert Lee Maitland. You are 
thirty-four years old. You are an 
engineer, specialty heat transfer, 
particularly as applied to rocket 
motors . . . No, Mr. Maitland, I'm 
not going to question you about 
your work; just forget about it. 
Your home town is Madison, 
Wisconsin , . /* 

"You seem to know everything 
about me," Maitland said defi- 
antly, looking up into the hang- 
ing forest of cabling. "Why this 
recital?" 

"I do not know everything 
about you — yet. And I'm testing 
the equipment, calibrating it to 
your reactions." He went on, 



A MB ITION 



57 



"Your favorite recreations are 

chess and reading what you term 

science fiction. Maitland, how 

would you like to go to the 
Moon?" 

Something eager leaped in 
Maitland's breast at the abrupt 
question, and he tried to turn his 
head. Then he forced himself to 
relax. "What do you mean?" 

Swarts was chuckling. "I really 
hit a semantic push-button there, 
didn't I? Maitland, I brought you 
here because you're a man who 
wants to go to the Moon. I'm in- 
terested in finding out why.' 9 

IN THE evening a girl brought 
* Maitland his meal. As the door 
slid aside, he automatically stood 
up, and they stared at each other 
for several seconds. 

She had the high cheekbones 
and almond eyes of an Oriental, 
skin that glowed like gold in the 
evening light, yet thick coiled 
braids of blonde hair that glit- 
tered like polished brass. Shorts 
and a sleeveless blouse of some 
thick, reddish, metallic -looking 
fabric clung to her body, and over 
that she was wearing a light, an- 
kle-length cloak of what seemed 
to be white wool. 

She was looking at him with 
palpable curiosity and something 
like expectancy. Maitland sighed 
and said, "Hello,** then glanced 
down self-consciously at his wrin- 
kled green pajamas. 



She smiled, put the tray of food 
on the table, and swept out, her 
cloak billowing behind her. Mait- 
land remained standing, staring 
at the closed door for a minute 
after she was gone. 

Later, when he had finished the 
steak and corn on the cob and 
shredded carrots, and a feeling of 
warm well -being was diffusing 
from his stomach to his extremi- 
ties, he sat down on the bed to 
watch the sunset and to think. 

There were three questions for 
which he required answers before 
he could formulate any plan or 
policy. 

Where was he? 
Who was Swarts? 
What was the purpose of the 
"tests" he was being given? 

It was possible, of course, that 
this was all an elaborate scheme 
for getting military secrets, de* 
spite Swarts' protestations to the 
contrary. Maitland frowned. This 
place certainly didn't have the 
appearance of a military estab- 
lishment, and so far there had 
been nothing to suggest the kind 
of interrogation to be expected 
from foreign intelligence officers. 
It might be better to tackle the 
first question first. He looked at 
the Sun, a red spheroid already 
half below the horizon, and tried 
to think of a region that had this 
kind of terrain. That prairie out 
there was unique. Almost any- 
where in the world, land like that 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



would be cultivated, not allowed 
to go to grass. 

This might be somewhere in 
Africa . . . - 

He shook his head, puzzled. 
The Sun disappeared and its 
blood-hued glow began to fade 
from the sky, Maitland sat there, 
trying to get hold of the problem 
from an angle where it wouldn't 
just slip away. After a while the 
western sky became a screen of 
clear luminous blue, a backdrop 
for a pure white brilliant star. As 
always at that sight, Maitland 
felt his worry drain away, leav- 
ing an almost mystical sense of 
peace and an undefinable longing. 

Venus, the most beautiful of the 
planets. 

Maitland kept track of them 
all in their majestic paths through 
the constellations, but Venus was 
his favorite. Time and time again 
he had watched its steady climb 
higher and higher in the western 
sky, its transient rule there as 
evening star, its progression to- 
ward the horizon, and loved it 
equally in its alter ego of morn- 
ing star. Venus was an old friend. 
An old friend 

Something icy settled on the 
back of his neck, ran down his 
spine, and diffused into his body. 
He stared at the planet unbe- 
lievingly, fists clenched, forget- 
ting to breathe. 

Last night Venus hadn't been 
there. 



Venus was a morning star just 
now . . . 

Just now! 

He realized the truth in that 
moment. 

T ATER, when that jewel of a 

•"- i planet had set and the stars 
were out, he lay on the bed, still 
warm with excitement and relief. 
He didn't have to worry any more 
about military secrets, or who 
Swarts was. Those questions were 
irrelevant now.. And now he could 
accept the psychological tests at 
their face value; most likely, they 
were what they purported to be. 

Only one question of impor- 
tance remained: 

What year was this? 

He grimaced in the darkness, 

an involuntary muscular expres- 
sion of jubilation and excitement. 
The future! Here was the oppor- 
tunity for the greatest adventure 
imaginable to 20th Century man. 
Somewhere, out there under the 
stars, there must be grand glitter- 
ing cities and busy spaceports, 
roaring gateways to the planets. 
Somewhere, out there in the 

night, there must be men who 
had walked beside the Martian 
canals and pierced the shining 
cloud mantle of Venus — some- 
where, perhaps, men who had vis- 
ited the distant luring stars and 
returned. Surely, a civilization 
that had developed time travel 
could reach the stars! 






AMBITION 



W 



And he had a chance to become 
a part of all that! He could spend 
his life among the planets, a citi- 
zen of deep space, a voyager of 
the challenging spaceways be- 
tween the solar worlds. 

"I'm adaptable/' he told him- 
self gleefully. "I can learn fast. . 
There'll be a job for me out 
there . . H 

If— 

Suddenly sobered, he rolled 
over and put his feet on the floor, 
sat in the darkness thinking. To- 
morrow. Tomorrow he would 
have to find a way of breaking 
down Swarts' reticence. He would 
have to make the man realize 
that secrecy wasn't necessary in 
this case. And if Swarts still 
wouldn't talk, he would have to 
find a way of forcing the issue. 
The fellow had said that he didn't 
need cooperation to get his re- 
sults, but — 

After a while Maitland smiled 
to himself and went back to bed. 

TTE WOKE in the morning with 
■*■-*• someone gently shaking his 
shoulder. He rolled over and 
looked up at the girl who had 
brought him his meal the evening 

• 

before. There was a tray on the 
table and he sniffed the smell of 
bacon. The girl smiled at him. 
She was dressed as before, ex- 
cept that she had discarded the 
white cloak. 

As he swung his legs to the 



floor, she started toward the door, 
carrying the tray with the dirty 
dishes from yesterday. He stop- 
ped her with the word, "Miss!" 
She turned, and he thought 
there was something eager in her 
face. 

"Miss, do you speak my lan- 
guage?" 

"Yes," hesitantly. She lingered 
too long on the hiss of the last 
consonant. 

"Miss," he asked, watching her 
face intently, "what year is this?" 
Startlingly, she laughed, a mel- 
low peal of mirth that had noth- 
ing forced about it. She turned 
toward the door again and said 
over her shoulder, "You will have 
to ask Swarts about that. I can- 
not tell you." 

"Wait! You mean you don't 
know?" 

She shook her head. "I can- 
not tell you." 

"All right; we'll let it go at 
that." 

She grinned at him again as the 
door slid shut. 

SWARTS came half an hour 
later, and Maitland began his 
planned offensive. 

"What year is this?" 

Swarts' steely eyes locked with 
his. "You know what the date is," 
he stated. 

"No, I don't. Not since yester- 
day." 

"Come on," Swarts said pa- 



60 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






tiently, "let's get going. We have 
a lot to get through this morn- 

ing." 

"I know this isn't 1950. It's 
probably not even the 20th Cen- 
tury. Venus was a morning star 
before you brought me here. Now 
it's an evening star.*' 

"Never mind that. Come." 

Wordlessly, Maitland climbed 
to his feet, preceded Swarts to the 
laboratory, lay down and allowed 
him to fasten the straps and at- 
tach the instruments, making no 
resistance at all. When Swarts 
started saying a .list of words — 
doubtlessly some sort of semantic 
reaction test — Maitland began the 
job of integrating "csc n x dx" in 
his head. It was a calculation 
which required great concentra- 
tion and frequent tracing back of 
steps. After several minutes, he 
noticed that Swarts had stopped 
calling words. He opened his eyes 
to find the other man standing 
over him, looking somewhat ex- 
asperated and a little baffled. 

"What year is this?" Maitland 
asked in a conversational tone. 

"We'll try another series of 
tests." 

It took Swarts nearly twenty 
minutes to set up the new appa- 
ratus. He lowered a bulky affair 
with two cylindrical tubes like 
the twin stacks of a binocular 
microscope over Maitland's head, 
so that the lenses at the ends of 
the tubes were about half an 



inch from the engineer's eyes. He 
attached tiny clamps to Mait- 
land's eyelashes. 

"These will keep you from 
holding your eyes shut," he said. 
"You can blink, but the springs 
are too strong for you to hold 
your eyelids down against the 
tension/' 

He inserted button earphones 
into Maitland's ears — 

And then the show began. 

He was looking at a door in a 

partly darkened room, and there 
were footsteps outside, a peremp- 
tory knocking. The door flew 
open, and outlined against the 
light of the hall, he saw a man 
with a twelve-gauge shotgun. The 
man shouted, "Now I've got you, 
you wife-stealer!" He swung the 
shotgun around and pulled the 
trigger. There was a terrible blast 
of sound and the flash of smoke- 
less powder — then blackness. 

With a deliberate effort, Mait- 
land unclenched his fists and tried 
to slow his breathing. Some kind 
of emotional reaction test — what 
was the countermove? He closed 
his eyes, but shortly the muscles 
around them declared excruciat- 
ingly that they couldn't keep 
that up. 

Now he was looking at a girl. 
She ... 

Maitland gritted his teeth and 
fought to use his brain; then he 
had it. 

He thought of a fat slob of a 







AMBITION 



41 



bully who had beaten him up 
one day after school. He remem- 
bered a talk he had heard by a 
politician who had all the intel- 
ligent social responsibility of a 
rogue gorilla, but no more. He 
brooded over the damnable stu- 
pidity and short-sightedness of 
Swarts in standing by his silly 
rules and not telling him about 
this new world. 

Within a minute, he was in an 
ungovernable rage. His muscles 
tightened against the restraining 
straps. He panted, sweat came out 
on his forehead, and he began to 
curse. Swarts! How he hated . . . 

The scene was suddenly a flock 
of sheep spread over a green hill- 
side. There was blood hammering 
in Maitland's temples. His face 
felt hot and swollen and he writh- 
ed against the restraint of the 
straps. 

The scene disappeared, the 
lenses of the projector retreated 
from his eyes and Swarts was 
standing over him, white-lipped. 
Maitland swore at him for a few 
seconds, then relaxed and smiled 
weakly. His head was starting to 
ache from the effort of blinking. 

"What year is this?" he asked. 

"All right," Swarts said. "A.D. 
2634." 

Maitland's smile became a grin. 



i 



REALLY haven't the time to 
waste talking irrelevancies," 

Swarts said a while later. "Hon- 




« 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



estly, Maitland, I'm working 
against a time limit. If you'll co- 
operate, 111 tell Ching to answer 
your questions/' 
"Ching?" 

"Jngrid Ching is the girl who 




has been bringing you your 
meals." 

Maitland considered a moment, 
then nodded. Swarts lowered the 
projector to his eyes again, and 
this time the engineer did not re- 
sist. 

That evening, he could hardly 
wait for her to come. Too excited 
to sit and watch the sunset, he 
paced interminably about the 
room, sometimes whistling nerv- 
ously, snapping his fingers, sitting 
down and jittering one leg. After 
a while he noticed that he was 
whistling the same theme over 
and over; a minute's thought 
identified it as that exuberant 
mounting phrase which recurs in 

the finale of Beethoven's Ninth 
Symphony. 

He forgot about it and went on 
whistling. He was picturing him- 
self aboard a ship dropping in 
toward Mars, making planetfall 
at Syrtis Major; he was seeing 

visions of Venus and the awesome 
beauty of Saturn. In his mind, he 
circled the Moon, and viewed the 
Earth as a huge bright globe 
against the constellations . . . 

Finally the door slid aside and 
she appeared, carrying the usual 
tray of food. She smiled at him, 
making dimples in her golden 
skin and revealing a perfect set 
of teeth, and put the tray on the 
table. 

"J think you are wonderful." 
she laughed. "You get everything 




AMBITION 



43 



you want, even from Swarts, and 
I have not been able to get even 
a little of what I want from him. 
I want to travel in time, go back 
to your 20th Century. And I 
wanted to talk with you, and he 
would not let me." She laughed 
again, hands on her rounded hips. 
"I have never seen him so irri- 
tated as he was this noon/' 

Maitland urged her into the 
chair and sat down on the edge of 
the bed. Eagerly he asked, "Why 
the devil do you want to go to 
the 20th Century? Believe me, 
I've been there, and what I've 
seen of this world looks a lot 
better." 

She shrugged. "Swarts says 
that I want to go back to the 
Dark Age of Technology because 
I have not adapted well to mod- 
ern culture. Myself, I think I have 
just a romantic nature. Far times 
and places look more exciting . . ." 

"How do you mean — " Mait- 
land wrinkled his brow — "adapt 
to modern culture? Don't tell me 
you re from another time!" 

"Oh, no! But my home is Ares- 
und, a little fishing village at the 
head of a fiord in what you would 
call Norway. So far north, we are 
much behind the times- We live 
in the old way, from the sea, 
speak the old tongue." 

TJTE looked at her golden fea- 
-*••*- tures, such a felicitous blend 
of Oriental and European char- 



acteristics, and hesitantly asked, 
"Maybe I shouldn't . . . This is a 
little personal, but . . . you don't 
look altogether like the Norweg- 
ians' of my time." 

His fear that she would be 
offended proved to be completely 
unjustified. She merely laughed 
and said, "There has been much 
history since 1950. Five hundred 
years ago, Europe was overrun 
by Pan-Orientals. Today you 
could not find anywhere a 'pure* 
European or Asiatic." She gig- 
gled. ' 'Swarts' ancestors from 
your time must be cursing in 
their graves. His family is Afri- 
kander all the way back, but one 
of his great-grandfathers was 
pure-blooded Bantu. His full 
name is Lassisi Swarts." 

Maitland wrinkled his brow* 
"Afrikander?" 

"The South Africans." Some- 
thing strange came into her eyes. 
It might have been awe, or even 
hatred; he could not tell. "The 
Pan-Orientals eventually con- 
quered all the world, except for 
North America — the last remnant 
of the American World Empire — 
and southern Africa. The Afri- 
kanders had been partly isolated 
for several centuries then, and 
they had developed technology 
while the rest of the world lost it. 
They had a tradition of white 
supremacy, and in addition they 
were terrified of being encircled/' 
She sighed. "They ruled the next 



*4 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



world empire and it was founded 
on the slaughter of one and a 
half billion human beings. That 
went into the history books as the 
War of Annihilation.*' 

"So many? How?" 

"They were clever with ma- 
chines, the Afrikanders. They 
made armies of them. Armies of 
invincible killing-machines, pro- 
duced in robot factories from 
robot-mined ores . , . Very clever." 
She gave a little shudder. 

"And yet they founded modern 
civilization/' she added. "The 
grandsons of the technicians who 
built the Machine Army set up 
our robot production system, and 
today no human being has to 
dirty his hands raising food or 
manufacturing things. It could 
never have been done, either, be- 
fore the population was — reduced 
to three hundred million/' 

"Then the Afrikanders are still 
on top? Still the masters?" 

SHE shook her head. "There are 
no more Afrikanders." 

"Rebellion?" 

"No. Intermarriage. Racial 
blending. There was a psychology 
of guilt behind it. So huge a crime 
eventually required a propor- 
tionate expiation. Afrikaans is 
still the world language, but there 
is only one race now. No more 
masters or slaves." 

They were both silent for a mo- 
ment, and then she sighed. "Let 



us not talk about them any 



more. 



t* 



"Robot factories and farms," 
Maitland mused. "What else? 
What means of transportation? 

Do you have interstellar flight 
yet?" 

"Inter-what?" 

* 

"Have men visited the stars?" 
She shook her head, bewildered. 
"I always thought that would 
be a tough problem to crack," he 
agreed. "But tell me about what 
men are doing in the Solar Sys- 
tem. How is life on Mars and 
Venus, and how long does it take 
to get to those places?" 

He waited, expectantly silent, 
but she only looked puzzled. "I 

don't understand. Mars? What 
are Mars?" 

After several seconds, Maitland 
swallowed. Something seemed to 

be the matter with his throat, 
making it difficult for him to 
speak. "Surely you have space 
travel?" 

She frowned and shook her 
head. "What does that mean — - 
space travel?" 

He was gripping the edge of the 
bed now, glaring at her. "A civili- 
zation that could discover time 
travel and build robot factories 
wouldn't find it hard to send a 
ship to Mars!" 

"A ship? Oh, you mean some- 
thing like a vliegvlotter. Why, no, 
I don't suppose it would be hard. 
But why would anyone want to 



AMBITION 



65 



do a thing like that?" 

He was on his feet towering 
over her, fists clenched. She 
raised her arms as if to shield her 

face if he should hit her. "Let's 
get this perfectly clear/' he said, 
more harshly than he realized. 
*'So far as you know, no one has 
ever visited the planets, and no 
one wants to. Is that right?" 
She nodded apprehensively. "I 

have never heard of it being 
doner 

He sank down on the bed and 
put his face in his hands. After a 
while he looked up and said bit- 
terly, "You're looking at a man 
who would give his life to get to 
Mars. I thought I would in my 
time. I was positive I would when 
1 knew 1 was in your time. And 
now I know I never will.** 

THE cot creaked beside him 
and he felt a soft arm about 
bis shoulders and fingers deli- 
cately stroking his brow. Pres- 
ently he opened his eyes and 
looked at her. "I just don't un- 
derstand," he said. "It seemed 
obvious to me that whenever men 
were able to reach the planets, 
they'd do it." 

Her pitying eyes were on his 
face. He hitched himself around 
so that he was facing her. "I've 
got to understand. I've got to 
know why. What happened? Why 
don't men want the planets any 

more?" 



"Honestly," she said, "I did not 
know they ever had." She hesi- 
tated. "Maybe you are asking the 
wrong question." 

He furrowed his brow, bewild- 
ered now by her. 

* 4 I mean," she explained, ''may- 
be you should ask why people 
in the 20th Century did want to 
go to worlds men are not suited 
to inhabit." 

Maitland felt his face become 
hot "Men can go anywhere, if 
they want to bad enough." 

"But why?' 9 

Despite his sudden irrational 
anger toward her, Maitland tried 
to stick to logic. "Living space, 
for one thing. The only perma- 
nent solution to the population 
problem . . ." 

"We have no population prob- 
lem. A hundred years ago, we 
realized that the key to social sta- 
bility is a limited population. Our 
economic system was built to take 
care of three hundred million 
people, and we have held the 
number at that." 

"Birth control." Maitland scoff- 
ed. "How do you make it work 
— secret police?" 

"No. Education. Kach of us has 

the right to two children, and we 
cherish that right so much that 

we make every effort to see that 
those two are the best children 
we could possibly produce . . ." 
She broke off. looking a little 
self-conscious. "You understand, 



46 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



what I have been saying applies 
to most of the world. In some 
places like Aresund, things are 
different. Backward. I still do not 
feel that I belong here, although 
the people of the town have ac- 
cepted me as one of them." 

"Even," he said, "granting that 
you have solved the population 
problem, there's still the adven- 
ture of the thing. Surely, some- 
where, there must be men who 
still feel that . I . Ingrid, doesn't it 
fire something in your blood, the 
idea of going to Mars — just to 
go there and see what's there and 
walk under a new sky and a 
smaller Sun? Aren't you inter- 
ested in finding out what the 
canals are? Or what's under the 
clouds of Venus? Wouldn't you 

like to see the rings of Saturn 
from a distance of only two hun- 
dred thousand miles?" His hands 
were trembling as he stopped. 

She shrugged her shapely 
shoulders. "Go into the past — 
yes! But go out there? I still can- 
not see why." 

"Has the spirit of adventure 
evaporated from the human race, 
or what?" 

She smiled. "In a room down- 
stairs there is the head of a lion. 
Swarts killed the beast when he 
was a young man. He used a 
spear. And time traveling is the 
greatest adventure there is. At 
least, that 1* the way I feel. 
Listen, Bob." She laid a hand on 



his arm. "You grew up in the 
Age of Technology. Everybody 
was terribly excited about what 
could be done with machines- 
machines to blow up a city all at 
once, or fly around the world, or 

take a man to Mars. We have had 
our fill of — what is the word?— 
gadgets. Our machines serve us, 
and so long as they function right, 
we are satisfied to forget about 
them. 

"Because this is the Age of 
Man. We are terribly interested in 
what can be done with people. 
Our scientists, like Swarts, are 
studying human rather than nuc- 
lear reactions. We are much more 
fascinated by the life and death of 
cultures than by the expansion 
or contraction of the Universe. 

With us, it is the people that are 
important, not gadgets." 

Maitland stared at her, his face 
blank. His mind had just manu- 
factured a discouraging analogy. 
His present position was like that 
of an earnest 12th Century cru- 
sader, deposited by some freak of 
nature into the year 1950, trying 
to find a way of reanimating the 
anti-Mohammedan movement. 
What chance would he have? The 
unfortunate knight would argue 
in vain that the atomic bomb of- 
fered a means of finally destroy- 
ing the infidel . . . 

Maitland looked up at the girl, 
who was regarding him silently 
with troubled eyes. "I think I'd 



A MBI TION 



67 



like to be alone for a while," he 
said. 

IN the morning, Maitland was 
tired, though not particularly 
depressed. He hadn't slept much, 
but he had come to a decision. 
When Ingri-d woke him, he gave 
her a cavalier smile and a cheery 
•'Good morning" and sat down to 
the eggs and ham' she had 
brought. Then, before she could 
leave, he asked, "Last night when 
we were talking about spaceships, 
you mentioned some kind of ves- 
sel or vehicle. What was it?" 

She thought. "Vliegvlotter? 
Was that it?" 

He nodded emphatically. "Tell 
me about them." 

"Well, they are — cars, you 

might say, with wheels that go 
into the body when you take off. 
They can do, oh, 5,000 miles an 
hour in the ionosphere, 50 miles 
tip." 

"Fifty miles,*' Maitland mused. 
•*Then they're sealed tight, so the 
air doesn't leak out?" Ingrid nod- 
ded. "How do they work? Rocket 
drive?" 

"No." She plucked at her lower 
lip. "I do not understand it very 
well- You could picture some- 
thing that hooks into a gravity 
field, and pulls. A long way from 
the Earth i\ would not work very 
well, because the field is so thin 
there . . • I guess I just cannot 



explain it very well to you.** 

"That's all I need." Maitland 
licked his lips and frowned. "On 
that point, anyway. Another thing 
— Swarts told me I'd be here for 
about a week. Is there any set 
procedure involved in that? Have 
'other persons been brought to this 
period from the past?" 

She laughed. "Thousands. 
Swarts has published nearly a 
hundred case studies himself, and 

spent time adding up to years in 
the 19th and 20th centuries." 

Maitland interrupted incredu- 
lously. "How on Earth could he 
ever manage to keep that many 
disappearances quiet? Some of 
those people would be bound to 
talk." 

She shook her head definitely. 
"The technique was designed to 
avoid just that. There is a method 
of 'fading' the memories people 
have of their stay here. The epi- 
sode is always accepted as a 
period of amnesia, in the absence 
of a better explanation." 

'Still, in thousands of cases..." 
'Spread out over centuries in 
a total population of billions." 

He laughed. "You're right. But 
will that be done to me?" 

"I suppose so. I can't imagine 

Swarts letting you take your 
memories back with you." 

Maitland looked out the win- 
dow at the green horizon. "We'll 
see," he said. 



a* 



«»< 



#• 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



MAITLAND removed his 
three-day beard with an ef- 
fective depilatory cream he dis- 
covered in the bathroom, and set- 
tled down to wait. When Swarts 
arrived, the engineer said quietly, 
"Sit down, please. I have to talk 
with you." 

Swarts gave him the look of a 
man with a piece of equipment 
that just won't function right, and 
remained standing. "What is it 

now?" 

"Look," Maitland said, "Ingrid 
has told me that men never 
reached the planets. You ought to 
know how I feel about space 
flight. It's my whole life. Knowing 
that my work on rockets is going 
to pay off only in the delivery of 
bombs, I don't want to go back 
to the 20th Century. I want to 
stay here." 

Swarts said slowly, "That's im- 
possible." 

"Now, look, if you want me to 
cooperate ..." 

The big man made an impa- 
tient gesture. "Not impossible be- 
cause of me. Physically impos- 
sible. Impossible because of the 
way time travel works." 

Maitland stared at him suspi- 

i 

ciously. 

"To displace a mass from its 
proper time takes energy," Swarts 
explained, "and it's one of the 
oldest general physical principles 
that higher energy states are un- 
stable with respect to lower ones. 



Are you familiar with elementary 
quantum theory? As an analogy* 
you might regard yourself, dis- 
placed from your proper time, as 
an atom in an excited state. The 
system is bound to drop back to 
ground state. In the atomic case, 
the time which elapses before that 
transition occurs is a matter of 
probabilities. In the case of time 
travel, it just depends on the 
amount of mass and the number 
of years the mass is displaced. 

"In short, the laws of nature 
will insist on your returning to 
1950 in just a few days." 

Maitland looked at the floor for 
a while, and his shoulders sagged. 
"Your memories of this will be 
faded," Swarts said. "You'll for- 
get about what Ingrid has told 
you — forget you were ever here, 
and take up your life where you 
left off. You were happy working 
on rockets, weren't you?" 

"But — " Maitland shook his 
head despairingly. Then he had 
an idea. "Will you let me do one 
thing, before I go back? I realize 
now that our time is limited, and 
you have a lot of tests to give me, 
but I'm willing to help speed 
things up. I want to see the stars, 
just once, from deep space. I 
know you'll make me forget it 
ever happened, but once in my 
life . . • You have vessels — vlieg- 
vtotter, Ingrid called them — that 
can go into space. If you'd give 
me just a couple days to go, out 



AMBITION 



6» 



there, maybe circle the Moon...?" 
There was a pleading note in his 
voice, but he didn't care. 

Swarts regarded hirn dispas- 
sionately for a moment, then 
nodded. "Sure," he said. "Now 
let's get to work." 

•TTiHE Earth doesn't change 
J- much," Maitland mused. 
Sitting on i&e cot, his arm around 
Ingrid's yielding waist, he was 
wearing the new blue trunks she 
had given him to replace his 
rumpled pajamas. The room was 
full of evening sunlight, and in 
that illumination she was more 
beautiful than any other woman 
he could remember. This had 
been the last day of tests; tomor- 
row, Swarts had promised, he 
would begin his heart-breakingly 
brief argosy to the Moon, with 
Ingrid as pilot. 

Over the past four days, he had 
been with the girl a lot. In the 
beginning, he realized, she had 
been drawn to him as a symbol of 
an era she longed, but was unable, 
to visit. Now she understood him 
better, knew more about him — 
and Maitland felt that now she 
liked him for himself. 

She had told him of her child- 
hood in backward Aresund and 
of loneliness here at the school in 
Nebraska. "Here," she had said, 
"parents spend most of their time 
raising their children; at home, 
they just let us grow. Every time 



one of these people looks at me I 
feel inferior." 

She had confided her dream of 
visiting far times and places, then 
had finished, "I doubt that Swarts 
will ever let me go back. He 
thinks I am too irresponsible. 
Probably he is right. But it is ter- 
ribly discouraging. Sometimes I 
think the best thing for me would 
be to go home to the fiord . . ." 

Now, sitting in the sunset glow, 
Maitland was in a philosophic 
mood. "The color of grass, the 
twilight, the seasons, the stars — 
those things haven't changed." He 
gestured out the window at the 
slumbering evening prairie. "That 
scene, save for unessentials, could 
just as well be 1950 — or 950. It's 
only human institutions that 

change rapidly . . .* 

"I'll be awfully sorry when you 
go back," she sighed- "You're the 
first person I've met here that I 
can talk to." 

"Talk to," he repeated, dis- 
satisfied. "You're just about the 
finest girl I've ever met." 

He kissed her, playfully, but 
when they separated there was 
nothing playful left about it. Her 
face was flushed and he was 
breathing faster than he had been. 
Savagely, he bit the inside of his 
cheek, "Two days! A lifetime here 
wouldn't be long enough!" 

"Bob." She touched his arm and 
her lips were trembling. "Bob, do 
you have to go — out there? We 



70 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



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i 



AMBITION 



T1 



could get a couple of horses to- 
morrow, and we would have two 
days." 

He leaned back and shook his 
head. "Can't you see, Ingrid? This 
is my only chance. If I don't go 
tomorrow, I'll never get to the 
Moon. And then my whole life 
won't mean anything . . ." 

HE woke with Ingrid shaking 
him, "Bob! Bob!" Her voice 
was an urgent whisper. "You've 
got to wake up quick! Bob!" 

He sat up and brushed the hair 
out of his eyes. "What's the mat- 
ter?" 

"I didn't really believe that 
Swarts would let you go into 
space. It wasn't like him. Bob, he 
fooled you. Today is when your 

time runs out!" 

Maitland swallowed hard, and 
his chest muscles tightened con- 
vulsively. "You mean it was all a 
trick?" 

She nodded. "He told me just 
now, while he was putting some- 
thing in your milk to make you 
sleep." Her face was bitter and re- 
sentful. "He said, 'This is a lesson 
for you, Ching, if you ever do any 
work with individuals like this. 
You have to humor them, tell 
them anything they want to be- 
lieve, in order to get your data.' " 

Maitland put his feet on the 
floor, stood up. His face was white 
and he was breathing fast. 

She grasped his arm. "What 



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72 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



are you going to do?** 

He shook her hand off. "I may 
not get to the Moon, but I'm go- 
ing to teach one superman the 
advantage of honesty!" 

"Wait! That won't get you 
anywhere." 

"He may be bigger than I am/* 
Maitland gritted, "but— " 

She squeezed his arm violently. 
"You don't understand. He would 
not fight you. He'd use a gun." 

4 

"If I could catch him by sur- 
prise . . ." 

She took hold of his shoulders 
firmly. "Now, listen, Bob Mait- 
land. I love you. And I think it's 
the most important thing in the 
world that you get to see the 
stars. Swarts will never let me 
time travel, anyway." 

What are you thinking?" 
I'll go down to the village and 
get a vliegvlotter. It won't take 
twenty minutes. I'll come back, 
see that Swarts is out of the way, 
let you out of here, and take 
you—" she hesitated, but her eyes 
were steady — "wherever you want 
to go." 

He was trembling. "Your ca- 
reer. I can't let you . . ." * 

She made as if to spit, then 
grinned. "My career! It's time I 
went home to the fiord, anyway. 
Now you wait here!" 

THE vlnegvlotter was about 50 
feet long, an ellipsoid of revo- 
lution. Maitland and Irtgrid ran 



*< 



a 



hand in hand across the lawn and 
she pushed him up through the 
door, then slammed it shut and 
screwed the pressure locks tight. 

They were strapping them- 
selves into the seats, bathed in 
sunlight that flooded down 
through the thick plastic canopy, 
when she stopped, pale with con- 
sternation. 

"What the matter?" he de- 
manded. 

"Oh, Bob, I forgot! We can't 
do this!" 

"We're going to," he said 
grimly. 

"Bob, sometime this morning 
you're going to snap back to 7950. 
If that happens while we're up 

there ..." 

His jaw went slack as the im- 
plication soaked in. Then he 
reached over and finished fasten- 
ing the buckle on her wide seat 
belt. 

"Bob, I can't. I would be killing 
you just as surely as . . ." 

"Never mind that. You can tell 
me how to run this thing and then 
get out, if you want to." 

She reached slowly forward and 
threw a switch, took hold of the 
wheel. Seconds later they were 
plummeting into the blue dome 

of the sky. 

The blue became darker, pur- 
plish, and stars appeared in day- 
light. Maitland gripped the edge 
of the seat; somewhere inside him 
it seemed that a chorus of angels 



AMBITION 



73 



was singing the finale of Beetho- 
ven's Ninth. 

There was a ping and Ingrid 
automatically flicked a switch. A 
screen lit up and the image of 
Swarts was looking at them. His 
eyes betrayed some unfamiliar 
emotion, awe or fear. "Ching! 
Come back here at once. Don't 
you realize that — " 

"Sorry, Swarts/* Maitland's 
voice resonated with triumph . 
"You'll just have to humor me 
once more." 

"Maitland! Don't you know 
that you're going to snap back 
to the 20th Century in half an 
hour? You'll be in space with no 
protection. You'll explode!" 

"I know," Maitland said. He 

looked up through the viewport. 
"Right now, I'm seeing the stars 
as I've never seen them before. 
Sorry to make you lose a case, 
Swarts, but this is better than dy- 
ing of pneumonia or an atomic 
bomb." 

He reached forward and snap- 
ped the image off. 

TWENTY minutes later, Mait- 
land had Ingrid cut the drive 
and turn the ship, so that he 
could see the Earth. It was there, 
a huge shining globe against the 
constellations, 1 0,000 miles dis- 
tant, 100 times the size of familiar 
Luna. North America was di- 
rectly below, part of Canada cov- 
ered with a dazzling area of 



clouds. The polar ice-cap was 
visible in its entirety, along with 
the northern portions of the Eura- 
sian land mass. The line of dark- 
ness cut off part of Alaska and 
bisected the Pacific Ocean, and 

the Sun's reflection in the Atlan- 
tic was blinding. 

And there was Venus, a bril- 
liant, white jewel against the 
starry blackness of interstellar 
space, and now he could see the 
Sun's corona ... 

The ship was rotating slowly, 
and presently the Moon, at first 
quarter, came into view, not per- 
ceptibly larger than seen from" 
Earth. Maitland heaved a sigh 
of regret. If only this could have 
been but the beginning of a voy- 
age .. . 

Ingrid touched his arm. "Bob." 
He turned to look at her golden 
beauty. 

"Bob, give me one more kiss." 

He loosened his seat strap and 

put his arms around her. For a 

moment he felt her soft lips on 
his . . . 

Then she was gone, and the 
ship had vanished. For perhaps 
as long as a second, alone in 
space, he was looking with naked, 
unprotected, ambition-sated eyes 
at the distant stars. 

The luring white blaze of 
Venus was the last image he took 
with him into the night without 
stars. 

— -WIM JAJM L. BADE 



74 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




spacemen 
die at home 



By EDWARD W. 1UDWIG 

One man's retreat is another's 

prison ■ « • and it takes a heap 
of flying to make a hulk a home! 



FORTY days of heaven and 
forty nights of hell. That's 
the way it's been, Laura. 
But how can I make you under- 
stand? How can I tell you what 
it's like to be young and a man 
and to dream of reaching the 



stars? And yet, at the same time, 
to be filled with a terrible, gnaw- 
ing fear — a fear locked in my 
mind during the day and bursting 
out like an evil jack-in-the-box 
at night. I must tell you, Laura. 
Perhaps if I start at the begin- 



Illustrated by THORNE 



SPACEMEN DIE AT HOME 



75 



tling, the very beginning . . . 

It was the Big Day. All the 
examinations, the physicals and 
psychos, were over. The Academy, 
with its great halls and classrooms 
and laboratories, lay hollow and 
silent, an exhausted thing at sleep 
after spawning its first-born. 

For it was June in this year of 
1995, and we were the graduating 
class of the U. S. Academy of In- 
terplanetary Flight. 

The first graduating class, 

Laura. That's why it was so im- 
portant, because we were the first. 

We sat on a little platform , 
twenty-five of us. Below us was 
a beach of faces, most of them 
strange, shining like pebbles in 
the warm New Mexican sunlight. 
They were the faces of mothers 
and fathers and grandparents and 
kid brothers and sisters — the peo- 
ple who a short time ago had been 
only scrawled names on letters 
from home or \yords spoken wist- 
fully at Christmas. They were the 
memory -people who, to me, had 
never really existed. 

But today they had become 
real, and they were here and 
looking at us with pride in their 
e^es. 

A voice was speaking, deep, 
sure, resonant. ". . . these boys 
have worked hard for six years, 
and now they're going to do a 
lot of big things. They're going to 
bring us the metals and minerals 
that we desperately need. They're 



going to find new land for our 
colonists, good rich land that will 
bear food and be a home for our 
children. And perhaps most im- 
portant of all, they'll make other 
men think of the stars and look 
up at them and feel humility — 
for mankind needs humility." 

The speaker was Robert 
Chandler, who'd brought the first 
rocket down on Mars just five 
years ago, who'd established the 
first colony there, and who had 
just returned from his second hop 
to Venus. 

Instead of listening to his 
words, I was staring at his broad 
shoulders and his dark, crew-cut 
hair and his white uniform which 
was silk-smooth and skin-tight. 
I was worshiping him and hating 
him at the same time, for I was 
thinking: 

He's already reached Mars and 
Venus. Let him leave Jupiter and 
the others alone! Let us be the 
first to tand somewhere! Let us 
be the first! 

71/I"ICKEY Cameron, sitting next 
J-* -■- to me, dug an elbow into my 
ribs. "I don't see 'em, Ben/' he 
whispered. "Where do you sup- 
pose they are?" 

I blinked. "Who?" 

"My folks." 

That was something I didn't 
have to worry about. My parents 
had died in a strato-jet crash 
when I was four, so I hadn't 



7& 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



needed many of those "You are 
cordially invited" cards. Just one, 
which I'd sent to Charlie Taggart. 

Stardust Charlie, we called 
him, although I never knew why. 
He was a veteran of Everson's 
first trip to the Moon nearly 
twenty-five years ago, and he was 
still at it. He was Chief Jctman 
now on the Lunar Lady, a com- 
mercial ore ship on a shuttle be- 
tween Luna City and White 
Sands. 

I remembered how, as a kid, 
I'd pestered him in the Long Is- 
land Spaceport, tagging after him 
like a puppy, and how he'd grown 
to like me until he became father, 
mother, and buddy all in one to 
me. And I remembered, too, how 
his recommendation had finally 
made me a cadet. 

My gaze wandered over the 
faces, but I couldn't find 
Charlie's. It wasn't surprising. 
The Lunar Lady was in "White 
Sands now, but liberties, as 
Charlie said, were as scarce as 

water on Mars. 

It doesrit matter, I told myself. 

Then Mickey stiffened. "I see 
'cm, Ben! There in the fifth row!" 

Usually Mickey was the same 
whether in a furnace-hot engine 
room or a garden party, smiling, 
accepting whatever the world of- 
f < I. But now a tenseness and an 
excitement had gripped even him. 
I was grateful that he was beside 
me; we'd been a good team during 



those final months at the Acad- 
emy and I knew we'd be a good 
team in space. The Universe was 
mighty big, but with two of us to 
face it together, it would be only 
half as big. 

And then it seemed that all the 
proud faces were looking at us as 
if we were gods- A shiver went 
through my body. Though it was 

daytime, I saw the stars in my 
mind's vision, the great shining 
balls of silver, each like a voice 
crying out and pleading to be ex- 
plored, to be touched by the sons 
of Earth. 

They expect a lot from us. 
They expect us to make a new 
kind of civilization and a better 

place out of Earth. They expect 
all this and a hell of a lot more* 
They think there's nothing we 
can't do. 

I felt very small and very 
humble. I was scared. Damned 
scared. 

A T last it was over, and the 

■**■ proud faces descended upon 
us in a huge, babbling wave. 

Then I saw him. Good old 
Stardust Charlie. 

His wizened little body was 
shuffling down an aisle, his eyes 
shining like a child's. He'd been 
sandwiched, evidently, jn one of 

the rear rows. 

But he wasn't the Charlie I'd 
seen a year ago. He'd becoJnc 
gaunt and old, and he walked 



SPACEMEN DIE AT HOME 



77 



with an unnatural stiffness. He 
looked so old that it was hard 
to believe he'd once been young. 

He scratched his mop of steel- 
gray hair and grinned, 

"You made it, boy" he chor- 
tled, "and by Jupiter, we'll cele- 
brate tonight. Yes, siree, I got 
twenty-four hours, and we'll cele- 
brate as good spacemen should!" 

Then Mickey strode up to us. 
He was his normal, boyish self 
again, walking lightly, his blond, 
curly-haired skull swaying as if 
in rhythm with some silent mel- 
ody. 

And you, Laura, were with him. 

"Meet the Brat," he said. "My 

sister Laura." 

I stared almost rudely- You 

were like a doll lost in the im- 
mensity of your fluffy pink dress. 
Your hair was long and trans- 
formed into a golden froth where 
sunlight touched it. But your eyes 
were the eyes of a woman, glow- 
ing like dark stars and reflecting 
a softness, a gentleness that I'd 

never seen in eyes before. 

"I'm happy to meet you, Ben/' 
you said. "I've heard of no one 
else for the past year." 

A tide of heat crept up from my 
"collar. I stuttered through an in- 
troduction of Charlie. 

You and Mickey looked 
Strangely at Charlie, and I real- 
ized that old Stardust was not a 
cadet's notion of the ideal space- 
man. Charlie scorned the skin- 



tight uniforms of the government 
service and wore a shiny black 
suit that was a relic of Everson's 
early-day Moon Patrol. His tie 
was clumsily knotted, and a but- 
ton on his coat was missing. 

And the left side of his face 
was streaked with dark scar tis- 
sue, the result of an atomic 
blowup on one of the old Moon 
ships. I was so accustomed to the 
scars, I was seldom aware of 
them; but others, I knew, would 
find them ugly. 

You were kind. You shook 
hands and said, softly: "It's a 
privilege to meet you, Charlie. 
Just think — one of Everson's men, 
one of the first to reach the 
Moon!" 

Charlie gulped helplessly, and 
Mickey said: "Still going to 
spend the weekend with us, aren't 
you, Ben?" 

I shook my head. "Charlie has 
only twenty-four hours liberty. 
We're planning to see the town 
tonight." 

"Why don't you both come 
with us?" you asked. "Our folks 
. have their own plane, so it would 
be no problem. And we've got a 
big guest room. Charlie, wouldn't 
you like a home-cooked meal be- 
fore going back to the Moon?" 

Charlie's answer was obscured 
by a sudden burst of coughing. I 
knew that he'd infinitely prefer to 
spend his liberty sampling Mar- 
tian fizzes and Plutonian zombies. 



78 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



But this night seemed too sa- 
cred for Charlie's kind of cele- 
bration. 

"We'd really like to come," I 
said. 

/\N our way to the 'copter 
^-^ parking field, Dean Dawson 
passed us. He was a tall, willowy 
man, spectacled, looking the way 
an academy professor should 
look. 

"Ben/' he called, "don't forget 
that offer. Remember you've got 
two months to decide." 

"No, thanks," I answered. "Bet- 
ter not count on me." 

A moment later Mickey said, 
frowning, "What was he talking 
about. Ben? Did he make you an 
offer?" 

I laughed. "He offered me a job 
here at the Academy teaching as- 
trogation. What a life that would 
be! Imagine standing in a class- 
room for forty years when I've got 
the chance to—" 

I hesitated, and you supplied 
the right words: "When you've 
got the chance to be the first to 
reach a new planet. That's what 
most of you want, isn't it? That's 
what Mickey used to want." 

I looked at you as if you were 
Everson himself, because you 
seemed to understand the hunger 
that could lie in a man's heart. 

Then your last words came 
back and jabbed me: "That's 
what Mickey used to want." 



"Used to want?" I asked. 
"What do you mean?" 

You bit your lip, not answering. 

"What did she mean, Mickey?" 

Mickey looked down at his feet. 
"I didn't want to tell you yet, 
Ben. We've been together a long 
time, planning to be on a rocket. 
But—" 

"Yes?" 

"Well, what does it add up to? 
You become a spaceman and wear 
a pretty uniform. You wade 
through the sands of Mars and 
the dust of Venus. If you're lucky, 
you're good for five, maybe ten 
years. Then one thing or another 
gets you. They don't insure 
rocketmen, you know." 

My stomach was full of churn- 
ing, biting ice. "What are you try- 
ing to say, Mickey?" 

"I've thought about it a long 
time. They want me for Cargo 
Supervisor of White Sands Port." 
He raised his hand to stop mM VI 
know. It's not so exciting. I'll just 
live a lot longer. I'm sorry, Ben." 
- I couldn't answer. It was as if 
someone had whacked the back 
of my knees with the blast of a 

Jet. 

"It doesn't change anything, 
Ben — right now, I mean. We can 
still have a good weekend." 

Charlie was muttering under 
his breath, smoldering like a 
bomb about to reach critical 
mass. I shook my head dazedly 
at him as we got to the 'copter. 



SPACEMEN DIE AT HOME 



79 



"Sure,** I said to Mickey, "we 
can still have a good weekend." 

I LIKED your folks, Laura. 
There was no star-hunger in 
them, of course. They were sim- 
ple and solid and settled, tike 
green growing things, deep-root- 
ed, belonging to Earth. They were 
content with a home that was 
cool on this warm summer night, 
with a 'copter and a tri-dimen- 
sional video, and a handsome 
automatic home that needed no 
servants or housework. 

Stardust Charlie was as com- 
fortable as a Martian sand- 
monkey in a shower, but he tried 
courageously to be himself. 

At the dinner table he stared 
glassily at nothing and grated, 
"Only hit Mars once, but Til 
never forget the kid who called 
himself a medic. Skipper started 
coughing, kept it up for three 
days. Whoopin* cough, the medic 
says, not knowin' the air had 
chemicals that turned to acid in 
your lungs. I*d never been to 
Mars before, but I knew better'n 
that. Hell, I says, that ain't 
whoopin' cough, that's lung-rot." 
That was when your father 
said he wasn't so hungry after all. 
Afterward, you and I walked 
onto the terrace, into the moon- 
lit night, to watch for crimson - 
tailed continental rockets that 
occasionally streaked up from 
White Sands. 



We gazed for a few seconds up 
into the dark sky. and then you 
said: "Charlie is funny, isn't he? 
He's nice and I'm glad he's here, 
but he's sort of funny." 

"He's an old-time spaceman. 
You didn't need much education 
in those days, just a lot of brawn 
and a quick mind. It took guts to 
be a spaceman then." 

"But he wasn't always a space- 
man. Didn't he ever have a fam- 
ily?" 

I smiled and shook my head. 

"If he had, he never mentioned it. 
Charlie doesn't like to be senti- 
mental, at least not on the out- 
side. As far as I know, his life 
began when he took off for the 
Moon with Everson." 

You stared at me strangely, al- 
most in a sacred kind of way- I v 
knew suddenly that you liked me, 
and my heart began to beat faster. 

There was silence. 

You were lovely, your soft hair 
like strands of gold, and there 
were flecks of silver in your dark 
eyes. Somehow I was afraid- I had 
the feeling that I shouldn't have 
come here. 

You kept looking at me until 
I had to ask: "What are you 

thinking. Laura?" 

You laughed, but it was a sad, 
fearful laugh. "No, I shouldn't be 
thinking it. You'd hate me if I 
told you, and I wouldn't want 
that." 

"I could never hate you." 



80 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



4< It — it's about the stars,** you 
said very softly. "I understand 
why you want to go to them. 
Mickey and I used to dream 
about them when we were kids. 
Of course I was a girl, so it was 
just a game to me. But once I 
dreamed of going to England. Oh, 
it was going to be so wonderful. 
I lived for months, just thinking 
about it. 

"One summer we went. I had 

fun. I saw the old buildings and 

castles, and the spaceports and 

the Channel Tube. But after it 

was over, I realized England 

wasn't so different from America. 

Places seem exciting before you 

get to them, and afterward they're 
not really " 

I frowned. "And you mean it 
might be the same with the stars? 
You think maybe I haven't 
grown up yet? 1 ' 

Anxiety darkened your features. 
"No, it'd be good to be a space- 
man, to see the strange places and 
make history. But is it worth it? 
Is it worth the things you'd have 
to give up?" 

I didn't understand at first, 
and I wanted to ask, "Give up 
what?" 

Then I looked at you and the 
promise in your eyes, and I knew. 

All through the years I'd been 
walking down a single, narrow 
path. 

Government boarding school, 
the Academy, my eyes always 



upward and on the stars. 

Now I'd stumbled into a cross- 
roads, beholding a strange new 
path that I'd never noticed be- 
fore. 

You can go into space, I 
thought, and try to do as much 
living in ten years as normal men 
do in fifty. You can be like Ever- 
son, who died in a Moon crash at 
the age of 36, or like a thousand 
others who lie buried in Martian 
sand and Venusian dust. Or, if 
you're lucky, like Charlie — a kind 
of human meteor, streaking 
through space, eternally alone, 
never finding a home. 

Or there's the other path. To 
stay on this little prison of an 
Earth in cool, comfortable houses. 
To be one of the solid, rooted 
people with a wife and kids. To 
be one of the people who live 
long enough to grow old, who 
awake to the song of birds instead 
of rocket grumblings, who fitt 
their lungs with the clean rich air 
of Earth instead of poisonous 
dust. 

"I'm sorry/' you said. "I didn't 
mean to make you sad, Ben." 

"It's all right," I said, clench- 
ing my fists. "You made sense — a 
lot of sense." 

*T*HE next morning Charlie said 
-■- good-bye in our room. He 
rubbed his scarred face nervously 
as he cleared his throat with a 
series of thin, tight coughs. 



SPACEMEN DIE AT HOME 



81 



Then he pointed to a brown, 

faded tin box lying on the bed. 

"Vm leavin' that for you. It's full 

of old stuff, souvenirs mostly. 

Thought maybe you'd like to 

have 'em." 

I scowled, not understanding, 

"Why, Charlie? What fpr?" 

He shrugged as if afraid he 
might be accused of sentimen- 
tality. "Oh, it's just that I've been 
dodgin' meteors now for twenty- 
five years. That's a long time, 
boy. Ain't one spaceman in a 
thousand that lucky. Some of 
these days, I won't be so lucky." 
I tried to laugh. "You're good 
for another twenty-five years, 

Charlie." 

He shook his head stiffly, star- 
ing at nothing. "Maybe. Any- 
way, I'm gonna get off the Shut- 
tle this time, make one more trip 
to Mars. Tell you what. There's 
a little stone cafe on Mars, the 
Space Rat, just off Chandler 
Field on the Grand Canal. When 
you get to Mars, take a look in- 
side. I'll probably be there." 

He coughed again, a deep, rasp- 
ing cough that filled his eyes with 

tears. 

"Not used to this Earth air," he 
muttered. "What I need's some 
Martian climate." 

Suddenly that cough frightened 
me. It didn't seem normal. I 
wondered, too, about . his stiff 
movements and glassy stare. It 
was as if he were drugged. 



4 

I shook the thought away. If 
Charlie was sick, he wouldn't talk 
about going to Mars. The medics ■ 
wouldn't let him go even as far as 

Luna. 

We watched him leave, you and 

Mickey and I. 

"When will you be back?" you 

asked. 

Charlie's hard face contorted 
itself into a gargoylish grin. 
"Maybe a couple of months, 
maybe a couple of years. You* 

know spacemen." 

Then he waved and strode 
away, a strange, gray, withered 
gnome of a man. 

I wanted him to say something, 
to tell me the secret that would 
kill the doubt worming through 

my brain. 

But he rounded a corner, still 
grinning and waving, and then 
he was gone. 

THAT afternoon Mickey show- 
ed me his room. It was more 
iike a boy's room than a space- 
man's. In it were all the little 
things that kids treasure — pen- 
nants, models of Eversons two 
ships, a tennis trophy, books, a 
home-made video. 

I began to realize how im- 
portant a room like this could be 
to a boy. I could imagine, too, the 
happiness that parents felt as they 
watched their children grow to 

adulthood. 

I'd missed something. My folks 



82 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



were shadow-people, my impres- 
sions of them drawn half from 
ancient photos, half from imagi- 
nation. For me, it had been a 
cold, automatic kind of life, the 
life of dormitories and routines 
and rules. I'd been so blinded by 
the brilliancy of my dreams, I 
hadn't realized I was different. 

My folks were killed in a rocket 
crash. If it weren't for rockets, 
I'd have lived the kind of life a 
kid should live. 

Mickey noticed my frown. 

"What's the matter, Ben? Still 
sore? I feel like a heel, but I'm 
just not like you and Charlie, I 
guess. I — " 

"No, I understand, Mickey. 
I'm not sore, really." 

"Listen, then. You haven't ac- 
cepted any offer yet, have you?" 

"No. I got a couple of possi- 
bilities. Could get a berth on the 
Odyssey, the new ship being fin- 
ished at Los Angeles. They want 
me, too, for the Moon Patrol, but 
that's old stuff, not much better 
than teaching. I want to be in 

deep space.** 

"Well, how about staying with 
us till you decide? Might as well 
enjoy Earth life while you can. 
Okay?" 

I felt like running from the 
house, to forget that it existed. I 
wanted someone to tell me one of 
the old stories about space, a tale 
of courage that would put fuel 
on dying dreams. 



But I wanted, also, to be with 
you, Laura, to see your smile and 
the flecks of silver in your eyes 
and the way your nose turned 
upward ever so slightly when you 
laughed. You see, I loved you al- 
ready, almost as much as I loved 
the stars. 

And I said, slowly, my voice 
sounding unfamiliar and far 
away, "Sure, I'll stay, Mickey, 
Sure." 

FORTY days of joy, forty 
nights of fear and indecision. 
We did all the little things, like 
watching the rockets land at 
White Sands and flying down to 
the Gulf to swim in cool waters. 
You tried, unsuccessfully, to 
teach me to dance, and we talked 
about Everson and Charlie and 
the Moon and the stars. You felt 
you had to give the stars all the 
beauty and promise of a child's 
dream, because you knew that 
was what I wanted. 

One morning I thought, Why 
must I make a choice? Why can't 
I have both you and the stats? 
Would that be asking too much? 

All day the thought lay in my 
mind like fire. 

That evening I asked you to 
marry me. I said it very simply: 
"Laura, I want you to be my 
wife." 

You looked up at Venus, and 
you were silent for a long while, 
your face flushed. 



SPACEMEN DIE AT HOME 



9Z 



Then you murmured, "I — T 
want to marry you, Ben, but are 
you asking me to many a space- 
man or a teacher?" 

"Can't a spaceman marry, 
too?" 

"Yes, a spaceman can marry, 

but what would it be like? Don't 

t ou see, Ben? You'd be like 

!harlie. Gone for maybe two 

nonths, maybe two years. Then 

you'd have a twenty -four hour 

liberty — and I'd have what?" 

Somehow I'd expected words 

like these, but still they hurt. "I 
wouldn't have to be a spaceman 
forever. I could try it for a couple 
of years, then teach." 

"Would you, Ben? Would you 
be satisfied with just seeing Mars? 
Wouldn't you want to go on to 
Jupiter and Saturn and Uranus 
and on and on?" 

Your voice was choked, and 
even in the semi-darkness I saw 
tears glittering in your eyes. 

"Do you think I'd dare have 
children, Ben? Mickey told me 
what happened on the Cyclops. 
There was a leak in the atomic 
engines. The ship was flooded 
with radiation — just for a second. 
It didn't seem serious. The men 

had no burns. But a year later the 

captain had a child. And it 

was — " 

"I know, Laura. Don't say it." 
You had to finish. "It was a 

monster." 

That night I lay awake, the 



fears and doul too frantic to let 
me sleep. 

YouWe got to decide now, I 
told myself. You can't stay here. 
Youve got to make a choice. 

The teaching job was still open. 
The spot on the Odyssey was still 
open — and the big ship, it was 
rumored, was equipped to make it 
all the way to Pluto. ' 

You can take Dean Dawson's 
job and stay with Laura and 
have kids and a home and live to 
see what happens in this world 
sixty years from now. 

Or you can see what's on the 
other side of the mountain. You 
can be a line in a history book. 

I cursed. I knew what Charlie 
would say. He'd say, "Get the 
hell out of there, boy. Don't let a 
fool woman make a sucker out of 
you. Get out there on the Odyssey 
where you belong. We gora date 
on Mars, remember? At the Space 
Rat, just off Chandler Field on 
the Grand Canal." 

That's what he'd say. 

And yet I wanted you, Laura. 
I wanted to be with you, always. 

"Oh God," I moaned, "what 
shall I do?" 

NEXT morning the door chimes 
pealed, and you went to the 
door and brought back the audio- 
gram. It was addressed to me; I 
wondered who could be sending 
me a message. 

I pressed the stud on the little 



84 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



gray cylinder, and a rasping, 
automatic voice droned : "Luna 
City, Luna, July 27, 1995. Regret 
to inform you of death of Charles 
Taggart, Chief Jetman . . J* 

Then there was a Latin name 
which was more polite than the 
word "lung-rot" and the metallic 
phrase, "This message brought to 
you by courtesy of United Na- 
tions Earth-Luna Communication 
Corps/' 

I stood staring at the cylinder. 

Charles Taggart was dead. 

Charles Taggart was Charlie. 

Stardust Charlie. 

My heart thudded crazily 
against my chest. It couldn't be! 
Not Charlie! The audiogram had 
lied! 

I pressed the stud again. ** • . • 
regret to inform you of death of 
Charles . . .** 

I hurled the cylinder at the 
wall. It thudded, fell, rolled. The 
broken voice droned on. 

You ran to it, shut it off. "I'm 
sorry, Ben, so terribly — " 

Without answering, I walked 
into my room. I knew it was true 
now. I remembered Charlie's 
coughing, his gaunt features, his 
drugged gaze. The metallic words 
had told the truth, 

I sat for a long time on my bed, 
crying inside, but staring dry- 
eyed at Charlie's faded tin box. 

Then, finally, I fingered his 
meager possessions — a few wrin- 
kled photos, some letters, a small 



black statue of a forgotten Mar- 
tian god, a gold service medal 
from the Moon Patrol. 

This was what remained of 
Charlie after twenty-five years in 
space. It was a bitter bargain. A 
statue instead of a wife, yellowed 
letters instead of children, a 
medal instead of a home. 

Ifd be a great future, I thought. 
You'd dream of sitting in a dingy 
stone dive on the Grand Canal 
with sand-wasps buzzing around 
smoky, stinking candles. A bottle 
of luchu juice and a couple of 
Martian girls with dirty feet for 
company. And a sudden cough 
that would be the first sign of 
lung-rot. 

To hell with it! 

I walked into your living room 
and called Dean Dawson on the 
visiphone. 

I accepted that job teaching. 

A ND now, Laura, it's nearly 
**■ midnight. You're in your 
room, sleeping, and the house is 
silent. 

It's hard to tell you, to make 
you understand, and that is why 
I am writing this. 

I looked through Charlie's box 
again, more carefully this time, 
reading the old letters and study- 
ing the photographs. I believe 
now that Charlie sensed my in- 
decision, that he left these things 
so that they could tell me what 
he could not express in words. 



SPACEMEN DIE AT HOME 



85 



And among the things, Laura, 
I found a ring. 
A wedding ring. 
In that past he never talked 
about, there was a woman — his 
wife. Charlie was young once, his 
eyes full of dreams, and he faced 
the same decision that I am fac- 
ing. Two paths were before him, 
but he tried to travel both. He 
later learned what we already 
know — that there can be no com- 
promise. And you know, too, 
which path he finally chose. 

Do you know why he had to 
drug himself to watch me gradu- 
ate? So he could look at me, 
knowing that I would see the 
worlds he could never live to see. 
Charlie didn't leave just a few 
trinkets behind him. He left him- 
self, Laura, for he showed me that 
a boy's dream can also be a 
man's dream. 

He made his last trip to Luna 
when he knew he was going to 
die. Heaven knows how he es- 
caped a checkup. Maybe the 
captain understood and was kind 
— but that doesn't matter now. 

Do you know why he wanted 
to reach Mars? Do you know why 
he didn't want to die in the clean, 
cool air of Earth? 

It was because he wanted to 
die nearer home. His home, 
Laura, was the Universe, where 
the ship was his house, the crew 
his father, mother, brothers, the 
planets his children. 



You say that the beauty of the 
other side of the mountain van- 
ishes after you reach it. But how 
can one ever be sure until the 
journey is made? Could I or 
Charlie or the thousand before us 
bear to look upon a star and 
think, / might have gone there; 
I could have been the first? 

We said, too, that the life of a 
spaceman is lonely. Yet how 
could one be lonely when men 
like Charlie roam the spaceways? 

Charlie wanted me to himself 
that night after graduation. He 
wanted us to celebrate as space- 
men should, for he knew that this 
would be his last night on Earth. 

- 

It might have seemed an ugly 
kind of celebration to you, but he 
wanted it with all his heart, and 
we robbed him of it. 

Because of these things, Laura, 
I will be gone in the morning. 
Explain the best you can to 
Mickey and to your parents and 
Dean Dawson. 

Right now I've got a date that 
I'm going to keep — at a dingy 
stone cafe on Mars, the Space 
Rat, just off Chandler Field on 
the Grand Canal. 

Stardust Charlie will be there; 
he'll go with me in memory to 
whatever part of the Galaxy I 
may live to reach. And so will 
you, Laura. 

I have two wedding rings with 

me — his wife's ring and yours. 

— EDWARD W. LUDWIG 



£6 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




THE UNDESIRED PRINCESS, 
by L, Sprague de Camp. Fantasy 
Publishing Co., Inc., Los Angeles, 
1 951. 248 pages, $3.00. 
ROGUE QUEEN, by L. Sprague 
de Camp. Doubleday & Co., Inc., 
New York, 1951. 222 pages, $275. 

* ■ THESE volumes show why de 

-*■ Camp has puzzled and exas- 
perated his fans. 

The Undesired Princess is a 
pure pseudo-fairy tale adventure 
about a character named Rolliri 
Hobart who is translated into an 
Aristotelian World called Logeia. 



Here things either are or are not 
whatever they are, with no in-be- 
tweens. A social lion is a real lion. 
The princess, being a fairy tale 
princess, is perfect — painfully so. 
Everything in the tale has this 
haywire quality of being or not 
being, plus a lot of pleasant de 
Campish plotcident and nonsense 
along with it. 

The F.P.C.I. volume is fattened 
out by the inclusion of a 34-page 
short story called Mr, Arson. This 
one has to do with how a char- 
acter named Grinnig bought him- 
self a correspondence course on 



* * * * * SHfLF 



87 



Nigromaney, conjured up one of 
the Paracelsian fire demons called 
the Saldine, and got himself and 
s lot of other nice people into 
fiome hot — but very hot — water. 
Both these fantasies are clever, 
glib, and wholly unimportant 

They can almost be counted on to 
depress the true believer in de 
Camp. 

Rogue Queen is something else 
again. This is without doubt the 
best item de Camp has yet devel- 
oped out of his concept of Viagens 
Inter planet arias, the Portugese- 
epealdng monopoly that controls 
all Terran space travel. 

In Rogue Queen, a novel never 
published before, we find our- 
selves in a strange feminist civili- 
sation — one which is essentially 
kumanoid, but similar to that of 
the bee. The meticulously scien- 
tific way in which de Camp de- 
velops details of this culture on 
m far-distant planet to parallel a 
bee society is fascinating. Men 
•re literally nothing but drones, 

•nd most females mere workers. 

With the arrival of the Viagens 
Interplanetarias spaceship Paris, 
bearing a load of scientists and 
explorers from Earth, a chain of 
•vents is begun which terminates 
In the reconversion of this ab- 
normal society back to the be- 
ginnings of a more natural way 
ADf life. 

The story of how this is ac- 
complished is made so circum- 



stantially real, so humanly plausi- 
ble, that the book becomes a sheer 
delight to read — particularly after 
the bombasts and atom blasts of 
much modern science fiction. And 
more especially after the sadden- 
ing amount of routine wordage 
de Camp has been producing. I 
hope he stays off the literary 
treadmill for good. 

BEYOND INFINITY, by Rob- 
ert Spencer Carr. Fantasy Press, 
Reading, Pa., 1951. 236 pages, 
$2.75. 

FOUR long short stories, at 
least two of them reprinted 
from The Saturday Evening Posf. 

The title story, Beyond Infini- 
ty, is a long, curiously uncon- 
vincing tale about how a certain 
type of space -time travel makes 
the travelers live backward so 
that, upon returning from a de- 
cades-long voyage, they have be- 
come young people again. 

Morning Star has to do with 
the attempts of manless Venus to 
get some nice young men from. 
Earth to settle there and give 
Venusian women a chance at nor- 
mal reproductive procedures, 
rather than their current parthe- 
nogetic way. This is all mixed up 
with a hush-hush super-secret war 
rocket project on Earth, a lot of 
terribly brilliant scientists, and a 
plan to Get To Mars Before The 
Reds Do* 



CALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



Those Men from Mars is about 
the best of this crop — an engaging 
though superficial tale of how the 
Martians land a ship on the 
White House lawn and another 
inside the Kremlin, and how the 
two societies work on their re- 
spective Martians to place the 
enormous scientific resources of 
their planet on one or the other 
side. 

Weak ending ... 

The fourth tale, Mutation, is 
about post-atomic-war chaos, and 
the white and shining, angelic 
mutated boys and girls that 
spring phoenixlike from this 
chaos. A very old-hat conception, 
but smoothly carried out. 

Pleasant reading, not top- 
drawer science fiction. 

ROCKETS, MISSILES AND 
SPACE TRAVEL, by Willy Ley. 

The Viking Press, New York, 
1951. 432 pages plus xii plus 12 
pages of illustrations plus a folded 
chart, " Characteristics of the 
Earth 9 s Atmosphere," inside the 
back cover; $5.95* 

THIS is the last word, the com- 
plete book, the authoritative 
job on rockets — good enough, 
without question, to serve as a 
primary textbook, reference vol- 
ume and handbook for everyone 
with a serious interest in the sub- 
ject, and also to introduce those 
who know nothing about it to the 



Great Science of Tomorrow ^m 
Space Travel. 

The book carries you straight 
through from the classical aeoli- 
pile of Heron of Alexandria to 
(and here I quote chapter head- 
ings) "The Rocket into Cosmic 
Space," "The Spaceship," and 
"Terminal in Space." In between, 
it gives you all the historical 
background there is, and great 
gobs of the science, too. 

There is the engrossing story of 
the German Rocket Society of the 
1920s, in which Ley himself play* 

ed an important part; there is 
what we know of Peenemunde, 

birthplace of the V-l and the V-2; 
and there is as much as can be 
told— which is more than you 
may think — about White Sands 
and its work. The guided missiles 
aspect is, of course, now empha- 
sized far beyond its previous 
weight in earlier editions, as the 
inclusion of the word in the new 
title indicates. 

As for the data on space travel 
itself, and on spaceships, they 
have also been greatly expanded 
when compared with the earlier 
editions. The prospects and dif- 
ficulties of successful space flight 
are given a full detailing. 

If anyone who owns Rockets 
(1944- 1945) or Rockets and 
Space Ships (1947), the names 
under which the earlier editions 
of this book appeared, believes 
that he won't need the new vol- 



• • • • • SHELF 



ume, I can only assure him that 
he is wrong. Great advances have 
been made since then, and much 
previously restricted information 
has been released. 

THE SPIRIT WAS WILLING, 
by Milton Luban. Greenberg: 
Publisher, New York, 195L 188 
pages, $2.50. 

*T^HIS is a piece of machine- 

■*• made, chromium - plated 
Thorne Smithiana, carefully cut 
along the pattern Thorne origi- 
nated, and assembled together 
with real care. It is a complete 
Smith, even to the screwy court- 
room scene. The only thing that 
is missing is Thorne Smith. 

The tale tells about ghosts, 

very funny ghosts who get sued 
for alienation of affections — one 
by the name of Ahbed; one by 
the name of Terry Stone, who not 



so long before had jumped from 

the 14th floor of an apartment 
house when the girl's husband 

came home unexpectedly ("What 
made you jump?" "I forgot what 
floor we were on/' the voice said 
sheepishly — that's the essential 
level of the humor in this vol- 
ume) ; and a female ghost named 
Beryl Topaze, who creates earth- 
quakes in people's apartments. 

It's all quite cuckoo, but not, 
unfortunately, with that wonder- 
ful old jet-propelled cuckooism 
typical of Thorne Smith. 

I did like the two unfortunate 
psychiatrists, though, Egghoff and 
Hpphegg. Imagine trying to psy- 
choanalyze a ghost! 

It would be too bad if publish- 
ers didn't continue bringing out 

books like this, on the chance that 
one might make up for all the 
others. This doesn't happen to be 
the one. — CROFF COIMKUN 



Coming Up . * . 

IN THE NOVEMBER GALAXY 

* THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert A. Heinlein 

The startling conclusion of a tremendous novel by one of science fiction'* 
greatest authors! 

* SEA LEGS by Frank Quartrocchi 

Don't count on the dreams of a homesick space pilot! They are apt 

to turn into nightmares! 

* SELF-PORTRAIT by Bernard Wolf* 

With this ideolistic cyberneticist, nothing was too good for his scientific 
colleagues. Much too good! 

A SHORT STORIES * GALAXY'S FIVE STAR SHELF 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




. 



SP ACEGRA M 

From: Jed Michaels. Ryttuk, 

Eros 

To: H. E. Horrocks, Interplane- 

tary Amusement Corp., Cosmo- 

polis, Earth 



I QUIT, YOU BALLOON BRAIIST. 

JED 
* * * 

rocket mail (Second Class) 

Dear Michaels: 

Your last message indicates you 



■ 



This bigtime space promoter could get 
the Horsehead Nebula in a flying mare 
— but pinning a planetoid is tougher! 



THc CELESTIAL HAMMERLOCK 



91 



wish to leave the employment 
of the Interplanetary Amusement 
Corp. Under our employee policy, 
this is allowable, effective upon 
completion of your current as- 
signment. Under precedent set as 
long ago as 2347 A. D. the com- 
pany will even pay the cost of 
your message of resignation. 

However, the words "you bal- 
loon brain" do not seem a neces- 
sary part of that message and will 
be deducted from your salary. 

Furthermore, I have a few 
words of my own to say You 
march straight into my office, 
Michaels, just as soon as you get 
back from Eros. Eros? what in 

HELL ARE YOU 1X)ING ON EROS? 

Horrocks 

* * * 

rocket mail (First Class) 

Mr. H. E. Horrocks 
Dear Balloon Brain: 

If you paid a little more atten- 
tion to your office and less to that 
golf course on Venus, you'd know 
what I am doing on Eros. I got 
here two days ago via Mars with 
a herd of six wrestlers, in ac- 
cordance with your own written 
memorandum. We were to appear 
at an Auruchs club smoker. 

Upon arrival, I found that no 
preparations had been made for 
us and nobody knows anything 
about an Auruchs club. 

The people here are nuts. They 



talk in six syllable words and 
their idea of a good time is to 
sniff flowers and do five dimen- 
sional calculus. They have less 
use for wrestlers than I have for 
you. 

Michaels 

♦ * * 

ROCKE-f mail (Second Class) 

Michaels, you nitwit: 

That wasn't Eros, you idiot! 
You were supposed to go to Erie 
— Erie, Pa., right here on Earth! 

If you remembered even your 
sixth grade Solar System history, 
you would know that the plane- 
toid Eros was settled in 2141 by 
a group of longhairs headed by 
Prof: M. R. Snock, a philosopher 
With a dozen university degrees. 

He wanted to show that war, 
crime and all forms of violence 

would disappear if people thought • 
only beautiful thoughts. 

The planetoid is lousy rich with 
erydnium ore and the people keep 
in luxury selling it to space 
freighters. They spend their time 
being gentle and thinking beauti- 
ful. There hasn't even been a 
spitball thrown there in eight 
generations. 

A fine place for you to show up 
mahouting six wrestlers with no 
foreheads. You're lucky they 
haven't thrown you in jail. 

Horrocks 

* * * 



92 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



pocket mail (Postage Due) 

Mr. H. E. Horrocks 
Dear Jellyhead: 

What do you mean lucky? We 
are in jail. 

Right after we got here, the 
boys decided they had been 
cramped in that local spaceship 
and needed a workout to limber 
up. As soon as they got started, 
they were surrounded by a bunch 
of scrawny males, all sniffing hol- 
lyhocks. 

Their spokesman, a bald bird 
with rosebuds in his whiskers, 
touched me with a gold-headed 
cane and said that apparently we 
were not yet attuned to the high 
mental plane of the planetoid, 
and would we mind going into 
protective custody while they 
worked over our egos and cured 
our kineticisrn. 

I said suppose we wouldn't. He 
looked shocked and waved his 
flower and said that then, al- 
though it had never happened 
before, he supposed he would 
have to call the space patrol and 
have us thrown into the hoose- 
gow on Ganymede. 

I translated that into basic 
wrestler for the boys and we 
agreed we'd better go along. We'd 
heard about the jail those tough 
space patrol babies operate on 
Ganymede. 

The flower lovers took us to an 
old erydnium pit and asked us to 



please go down. Now they're per- 
fuming us every hour and feeding 
us flower bulbs to make us gentle. 
We could climb out of this rat- 
hole whenever we wanted, but 
that would be climbing straight 
into a striped spacesuit. 

I think about you all the time. 
And if you think they're beautiful 
thoughts, you're as crazy as I've 
always suspected. 

Michaels 
P.S. The boys asked that I en- 
close this note from them: 
Dear Mr, Horox: 

We do not like it here Mr. 
Horox. The Grub is no good, 
You come get us Plese Mr. Hor- 
ox. Come soon. 

Gorilla Man Thorpe 
Choker Jonas 
R. Z, Zbich, light-heavy- 
weight champion of the m 
Moon, Mercury and the in- 
ner rings of Saturn 
Gorgeous Gordon 
Barefoot Charles Anya 
X, the Faceless Wonder 

*F -J*- *J* 

rocket mail (First Class) 

Mr. Jed Michaels 
Mr. Michaels: 

Don't think you can sit around 
doing nothing and collect pay 
from the Interplanetary Amuse- 
ment Corp. You're suspended un- 
til you get out of there. 

Horrocks 



THE CELESTIAL HAMMER LOCK 



n 



* * * 

spacegram (Collect) 

Mr. H. E. Horrocks, Cosmopolis, 
Earth 

MY RESIGNATION IS A MISTAKE. 
I WITHDRAW IT. YOU ARE BEST OF 
ALL POSSIBLE BOSSES. IMPROBABLE 
AS IT SEEMS, I LOVE YOU. 

JED 

* * * 

SPACEGRAM 

Mr. Jed Michaels, Ryttuk, Eros 

ONLY ONE POSSIBLE CAUSE FOR 
YOUR LAST SPACEGRAM. HAS SHE A 
SISTER? 

HANK 

* * * 

rocket mail (Second Class) 

Mr. H. E. H6rrocks 

My dear employer and pal; 

Eros is a wonderful asteroid! 

Toward the end of the second 
day in the pit, the wrestlers lim- 
bered up. Zbich and the Gorilla 
Man worked out on headlocks,. 
Gorgeous Gordon did calisthenics, 
and Barefoot Charley, Choker 
Jonas and the Faceless Wonder 
got themselves Into a grunting 
free-for-all. 

After that got under way, I 
heard a squeal and a girl came 
bounding down the pit side. She 
was young and dark -haired and 



pretty. She might have been as 
intellectual as the president of 
Harvard above the shoulders, but 
what a framework she had to 
hold up that brain! 

She went over to Gorgeous 
Gordon and she said, "Ooh!" 
With all the flower lovers around 
here, it was probably the first 
man with muscles she had ever 
seen. 

The big ham swelled up. He 
flexed his arms and stuck out his 
chest. "OOH!" said the girl, and 
went bounding back up the side 
of the pit. 

I stopped the exercise and the 
wrestlers sat and mused blankly 
at each other. 

In a few minutes, our little 

visitor was back again. With her 

were about a dozen pals, differing 
in details, but resembling her in 
the important points. 

The leader was a tail, brown- 
haired, gray-eyed girl, with a 
face where intellect fought a los- 
ing battle with a dimple. The 
others helped her down the pit 
side as if she were something 
fragile and precious, like maybe a 
new bottle of perfume. 

Then our pal went back to Gor- 
geous Gordon. "More ooh!° said 
the girl guide. 

You know how wrestlers are. 
They'll slap each other silly to get 
the cheers of four kids on a street 
corner, or commit mayhem for a 
purse big enough to buy a ham 



94 



GAIAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



hock. In five seconds, we had go- 
ing one of the finest wrestling 
matches in the history of good, 
clean sportsmanship. And over 
the cracking of wrestler's bones 
rose the shrieks of the girls, show- 
ing that their throats were in the 
light place, even if their brains 
weren't. 

The gray-eyed girl sat with me 
on a flange of unmined ore. She 
was Aliana, a direct descendant of 
the leader of the Eros pioneers. 
As such, she was princess of the 
planetoid, although she left most 
of the governing to a council of 
ciders, apparently as outstanding 
an array of mossbacks as ever 
smelled a gardenia or just plain 
smelled. 

"I sometimes think. Mr. Mich- 
aels/' Aliana told me, "that we of 
Eros have laid too much stress 
upon the cerebral. I wonder if our 
lives would not be fuller if we 
also included some of the more 
vigorous activities, such as the 
one in which those men are now 
engaged." 

"If it's a vacation for your mind 
that you want. Princess," I 
agreed, "those boys are your 
meat." 

Just then the Gorilla Man got 
a leg split on Barefoot Charley 
and began to braid his toes. 

"How stimulating," breathed 

Aliana. "What is proper for the 
onlooker to remark in such a situ* 
ation?" 



"A satisfactory outcry. Prin- 
cess," I explained, "is, 'Break it 
off !' " 

''Break it off!" encouraged Ali- 
ana. 

I had to wind it up, finally, be- 
fore the wrestlers reduced them- 
selves to blubber, thereby forcing 
the Interplanetary Amusement 
Corp. to go out and lasso itself 
another herd. 

The girls went giggling up the 
side of the pit. At the top, Aliana 
waved at me. The others blew 
kisses, not caring much where 
they landed, as long as the re- 
ceiver had muscles. 

Next morning, a young man 
came into the pit. He announced 
that, upon Princes Aliana's or- 
ders, we were to have the freedom 
of Eros, so that contact with the 
planetoid culture could win us 
from our uncouth ways. 

He was too young to be wholly 
gentled by the flowers and the 
council of elders. So the Choker 
showed him a wristlock. And 
when the Choker tossed him on 
his ear in the erydnium ore, he 
said words that were not beauti- 
ful. Maybe there's something to 
the people of this asteroid. 

Anyway, everything is great 
now. We wander wherever we 
please, as long as we return to the 

pit to sleep. When nobody is look- 
ing, we sneak into the royal pala« a c 
courtyard and put on a wrestling 
show for the girls. 




THE CELESTIAL HAMMERIOCK 



9f 



And the nights! Ah, the nights! 
Don't turn entirely green with 

envy, Hankus. At least leave your 
nose the familiar red. 

Jed 



SPACEGRAM 

To; Jed Michaels, Ryttuk, Eros 

FINE WORK. RETURN IM MEDIATE- 
LY. WILL MEET YOU AT MARS. MAY- 
BE YOU CAN PERSUADE SOME OF 
THE GIRLS TO ACCOMPANY YOU 
THAT FAR. AM SENDING THE 
WRESTLERS TO SATURN. 

HANK 
* * * 

rocket mail (First Class) 

■ 

To: H. E. Horrocks, Cosmopolis, 

Earth 

Dear Hank: 

Go to Mars, the man says. I 
can't go anywhere. The elders 
caught us giving a rassle when 
Aliana was away and we're in 
again. 

These flower roots taste ter- 
rible. 

Jed 



SPACEGRAM 

,To: Jed Michaels, Ryttuk, Eros 

YOU BLUNDERING BABOON, YOU- 



'RE FIRED. 



HORROCKS 



ROCKET MAIL 

(Free, Royal Frank) 

Royal Palace, Eros 
To: H. E. Horrocks, Cosmopolis, 
Earth 

Dear melon brain: 

I gather from your last message 
that you wish to discharge me. I 
accept the offer, fat boy. In fact, 
under royal Eros precedent, which 
I made up three minutes ago, we 
will even pay for your message. 
However, the words "you blun- 
dering baboon" do not seem a 
necessary part of that message, 
and their cost will be taken out 
of the first bit of business that the 
royal house of Eros decides to 
honor your puny little corpora- 
tion with. 

If any. 

Times are changed, Hankus. 
I'm a big shot now. 

A few hours after we got back 
in the pit, Aliana came back and 
sneaked down to see us. She said 
she thought it was about time to 
end this council of elders* non- 
sense and she asked our help. 

I told her plan to the wrestlers 
in words of one syllable or less. 
They all agreed except the Face- 
less Wonder. 

"I don't see why I should have 
nothing to do with no book," he 

said. It seems he had had a book 

* 

once and chewed up the first three 



96 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



chapters before he found put it 
wasn't something to eat. 

I signaled to the boys. Zbich 
clamped a headlock on him. The 
Choker got a hammerlock. The 
Gorilla Man took him in a scis- 
sors. Gorgeous Gordon got a toe- 
hold and Barefoot Charley stood 
by to jump on his stomach. 

"Do you understand now?" I 
asked politely. 

"Sure, Jed, sure," said the Face- 
less Wonder. "Why didn't ya ex- 
plain it to me in the first place?" 

So the next morning, we yelled 
for books. And for the following 
days, whenever anybody was 
around, we were busy sniffing 
flowers and reading. Between 

times, I tried to explain to the 

wrestlers why there weren't more 
pictures in the books. 

A week later, we sprang the 
trap. I told the stablehand who 
brought us our fodder that I had 
taken in so much culture that I 
was breathing beauty. Zbich, gag- 
ging a little, asked for a second 
helping of flower roots. Gorgeous 
Gordon requested a needle and 
thread; he said he had fallen be- 
hind in his needlepoint. 

A report of the conversation got 
to the council of elders and it 
brought them to the lip of the pit, 
looking like something the glue 
factory had refused to accept. 
Aliana was with them. 

I bowed from the waist and 
made a speech. I thanked the 



elders for showing me the error of 
my ways. I said that, after staying 
in the lovely erydnium pit, I was 
enraptured with flowers, crazy 

about culture and practically en- 
gaged in five dimension calculus. 
I asked that I and the boys could 
have the priceless boon of walking 
freely around Eros, swapping 
beautiful thoughts with the local 
yokels. 

The elders went into a deep 
state of flutter. Most of them 
were for accepting our proposi- 
tion out of hand — which was bad. 
Our old pal with the beard saved 
us. 

"But I saw these men romp- 
ing/' he shrilled. He lowered his 
voice to a high alto. "Positively 

romping!'* 

"Perhaps these men could 
prove their sincerity/' Aliana 
said, winking at me. "Perhaps 
one of them would consent; to 
illustrate what he has learned here 
by giving a public talk on some 
scientific subject/' 

"I should be glad/' I answered, 
"to hack off a lecture for the good 
folk of Eros. Suppose I give it on 
anatomy/' 

And so it was decided. 

Exactly as we had planned. 

There was an amphitheater 
which the inhabitants of Eros had 
been using for ballets, string quar- 
tets and lectures by such of the 
longhairs as got stuffed so full of 
long words that they couldn't 



THE CELESTIAL HAMMERLOCK 



97 



keep them to themselves. I had 
jringposts and ropes set up on the 
platform, saying I needed them 
to illustrate my talk. I got into 
the ring with Gorgeous Gordon 
and Zbich, who were dressed in 
trunks and bathrobes. 

* 

The wit and beauty of Eros 
was assembled there, the beauty 
being represented by the girls, 
and the wit — such as it was — by 
the council of elders. The rest of 
the seats were filled with other 
forms, some of them tolerably 
easy to look at. 

I had picked out the subject 
of anatomy in the belief that none 
of the inhabitants of Eros knew 
anything about it. 

The men didn't notice and the 
women had nothing at all to 
look at, anyway. 

I went into my act. 

"Kind hosts, friends and un- 
fortunate incidents," I said. "My 
topic is the science of anatomy. 
Now, the science of anatomy is 
copacetic to the point of mopery. 
The cerebellum is distended and 
the duodenum goes into a state 
of c pluribus unum. Incalculably, 
thrombosis registers and the ecto- 
plasm becomes elliptic. Or, in the 
vernacular, the eight ball in the 
side pocket." 

The crowd sat stunned. Here 
and there, a flower sniffer looked 
down at his own rack of bones to 
check my statement. 



"Let me illustrate," I said. 
I drew the bathrobes off the 
wrestlers. 

The boys' muscles rippled as 
they strutted around the ring. 
From the women spectators came 
a long, deep sigh. From that mo- 
ment, we had half the audience 
with us — the female half. 

"In anatomy," I said, shaking 
my finger to emphasize the point, 
"the wingback shifts outward for 
a lateral. In the words of the 
great philosopher Hypocritus. the 
coil should always be kept clean 
between the barrel and the tap 
and all excess collar should be 
removed with a spatula." 

Nobody was listening to me; 
they were looking at the wrestlers, 
which, of course, was what I'd 
figured on. Most of the men 
were comparing the grunters' 
muscles to their own, and here 
and there a few Ayere dropping 
their flowers onto the floor. 

I signaled and in a second the 
boys were an omelet of flying legs. 
The crowd gasped, then leaned 
forward intently. The shrieking 
began when Gordon got a head- 
lock on Zbich. It grew when 
Zbich flipped Gorgeous with a 
flying mare. By the time Gordon 
got in a billygoat butt, the amphi- 
theater sounded like feeding time 
at the 200. 

But there was another sound, 

too. Old Whiskers was tottering 
down the aisle, shrieking, "This 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTIO 



»• 



is romping! Mere romping! 1 

I signaled and the boys stop- 
ped. 

"We need a third man to illus- 
trate the next point," I said. 
"Perhaps the gentleman in the 
aisle will volunteer." 

Two wrestlers grabbed Old 
Whiskers and tossed him into the 
ring. Making fast double talk, I 
took off his shirt and he stood 
there, stripped to the waist, blink* 
ing in the sun and looking like 
a dehydrated squab. 

The crowd noted the contrast 
between his scrawniness and the 
muscles of the wrestlers. A roar 
of laughter swept it. 

"Perhaps," I said, "the gentle- 
man would like to romp." 

Zbich made a grab for him and 

he scuttled out of the ring, fall- 
ing over the lower rope. A woman 
in the first row slugged him with 

a gardenia. 

"Sit down, you old fool!" She 

turned to the wrestlers. "Break 

it off!" she shouted. 

The match went on. 

In my career, including my 
medicine show days, I've had lots 
of easy marks, but nothing to 
compare to the crowd at Eros* 
first wrestling match. When Gor- 
geous took the first fall with a 
body scissors, they went mad; 
when Zbich evened it up, they 

went hysterical; when Zbich took 
the deciding fall, they were de- 
lirious. And at the end of the 



match between Choicer Jonas and 
the Faceless Wonder, they were 
reduced to a jelly. We had to 
call off the third match for fear 
we would have to take them home 
in jars. 

At the end, we went in a body, 
led by the wrestlers, and threw 
the council of elders into the 
erydnium pit. We are keeping 
them now on a diet of raw meat. 

The amphitheater has been 
converted into a permanent wres- 
tling arena. We've laid out a 
football and a baseball field in 
the lyceum grove, and next week 
we'll start turning the botanical 
garden into a golf course. 

To carry out the full program, 
we shall have to buy some equip- 
ment and hire some talent. 

Whether we toss some of the busi- 
ness to Interplanetary depends, 
Hankus boy, entirely on what at- 
titude Interplanetary takes to- 
ward you know who. 

When you write your crawling 
letter, you worm, address me as 
"Your Mightiness." I am minister 
of athletics on Eros now and the 
second most important person on 
the planetoid. 

My work takes me close to the 

Princess Aliana. Very close. 

Come to think of it, I wish 
there was a moon on Eros. It's 
not essential, but it helps. 

So long, peasant. 

JED 

—DONALD COLVIN 



THE CELESTIAL HAMMERLOCK 



99 



The 

Pup pet 







asters 



PART 2 OF A 3-PART SERIAL 



By ROBERT A. HEINLEIN 



Illustrated by Don SiMey 



SYNOPSIS 
On July 7, 2007, three of us 

flew out to Iowa to investigate 
the landing of a Flying Saucer — 
me, the chief of the secret intel- 
ligence agency */ work for, and 
another agent, a sultry redhead 
known to me only by her opera- 



tion alias of "Mary Cavanaugh" 
The "Saucer 9 turned out to be a 

hoax, but six of our own people 
had preceded us and failed to 
come back. 

A clue led us to Des Moines 
stereo station where we captured 
a strange, horrible parasite, kill- 
ing its host, the station manager, 



The one thing worse than fighting on 
enemy completely human or completely 
alien is — fighting one that is both! 



100 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



in so doing. It was our first sight 
oi a "Puppet Ma f % — a repul- 
sive blob oi protoplasm which 
had fastened itself to the man- 
agers back, controlling his nerv- 
ous system, his will, his actions. 
We escaped with the captured 
parasite, but, without its host, it 

died. 

By strict logical reconstruction 

the Old Man realized that Earth 
was being invaded by extrater- 
restrial parasites. He urged the 
President to quarantine Iowa and 
fight back, and was politely 
brushed off. It was our first de- 
feat by an enemy almost impos- 
sible to fight — a man possessed 
by a parasite looked and acted 
like a normal man. Key people 
in Iowa were already possessed, 
but we could not prove it. 

Mary and I dug into the files 
of the Congressional Library and 
came up with data which proved 
that the Saucers had been scout- 
ing tltis planet even before we 
achieved space flight. But we 
needed direct evident , . / got the 
Old Man to send me back to Iowa 
with two other agents and a 
portable pickup, to relay pictures 
back to the President. We found 
a nest of parasites and their vic- 
tims at that same Des Moines 

stereo station and had to shoot 
our way out. We did not get pi 
but we did capture another para- 
site; it fastened itself to one of 
my agent*. We planned to keep 



it alive and show it to the Presi- 
dent, but it managed to transfer 
to me. 

I escaped from headquarters, 
fully conscious, but my will was 
my master's will; I was warmly 
content to serve him. I rented a 
loft, had a shipment of masters 
sent to me from Des Moines, and 
started recruiting new servants. 
In a short time we had the police 
force, stereo announcers, the 
mayor, local politicos, ministers 
— all the key people needed to 
bring New Brooklyn completely 
under our control, yet on the sur- 
face life went on as before. 

I might still be serving my mas* 
ter had not the Old Man searched 

for me and slipped me a hypo as 
I was getting into an air taxi. 
After my rescue it took me some 
days to recuperate; I was half 
starved, covered with dirt and 
lice, and in a nervous state. When 
I was partly recovered the Old 
Man put me back on duty and 
took me to see an ape which was 
being used as host to the parasite 
captured with me. The sight of 

my master was almost too much 

for me. I wanted to kill it at once. 

The Old Man explained soberly 

that he wanted me to submit 

again to being possessed by it so 

that he might interview it. I re- 
fused, spilling over with horror 

and indignation. He forced me to 
remain in the room while a vol' 
unteer was brought in to serve in 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



101 



my place. When they started 
strapping her into the chair that 
would restrain her during the in- 
terview, I realized that the victim 
was to be Mary! I blew my top 
and stopped them. 

1 let them strap me down, let 
them place that wet and pulsating 
thing on my bare shoulders — and 
then I was back with my master, 
and happy to be so. We avoided 
their questions skillfully at first, 
but the Old Man used an electri- 
cal shocking device which my 
master could not stand, and 
which almost tore me apart. He 
tried to force us to tell where we 
came from. Under the unbearable 
pain of the shocks, I collapsed. 

When I came to, J was again 

human and unpossessed, but hat- 
ing every human who had had 
anything to do with my ordeal. 
Mary was waiting for me in the 
corridor. She sobbed when she saw 
the shape I was in. I looked her 
over, called her a bitch, and 
slapped her, then stumbled back 
to my infirmary bed. 

The Old Man came to see me 
when I was better and told me 
that the interview had been a suc- 
cess, even though the parasite had 
died without letting me talk. For 

unknown to me, they had been 
able to dig out of my brain, with 
hypnotic drugs, one key piece of 
information — the location of the 
home base of the parasites: Titan, 
moon of Saturn. Second, the Old 



Man said that I had no reason to 
be rough on Mary, 

We had a head-on clash over 
this point; as I saw it, Mary had 
let herself be used as bait to force 
me to volunteer for a job so dirty 9 
so soul-soiling, that I would never 
have touched it otherwise. But ac- 
cording to the Old Man she had 
been a true volunteer, a real hero, 
and had not had the slightest no- 
tion that he really wanted me for 
the interview. Vd proved I could 
live through it, while she might 
have died. He freely admitted 
tricking me, but swore that Mary 
was innocent. 

1 did not know what to believe. 

XII 

WHEN the doctor re- 
leased me, I went look- 
ing for Mary. I still had 
only the Old Man's word, but I 
had more than a suspicion that I 
had made a big hairy sap of my- 
self. 

You would think that a tall, 
handsome redhead would be as 
easy to find as flat ground in Kan- 
sas. Field agents come and go, 
though, and the resident staff are 
encouraged to mind their own 
business. The personnel office 
gave me the bland brushoff . They 
i«-ferred me to Operations, mean- 
ing the Old Man. It was Mary I 
wanted, not him. 

I nut with even more suspicion 



102 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



when I tried the door tally; I be- 
gan to feel like a spy in my own 
section. 

I went to the bio lab, could not 
find its chief, and talked to an 
assistant. He did not know any- 
thing about a girl in connection 

with Project Interview; he went 
back to scratching himself and 
shuffling reports. I left and went 
to the Old Man's office. There 
seemed to be no choice. 

A new face was at Miss Haines* 
desk. I never saw Miss Haines 
again, nor did I ask what had be- 
come of her; I did not want to 
know. The new secretary passed 
in my I. D. code, and, for a won- 
der, the Old Man was in and 
would see me. 

"What do you want?" he asked 

grumpily. 

I said, "Thought you might 

have some work for me," which 
was not at all what I had in- 
tended to say. 

"Matter of fact, I was just fix- 
ing to send for you. You've loafed 
long enough." He barked some- 
thing at his desk phone, stood up 
and said, "Come!" 

I felt suddenly relaxed. "Cos- 
metics?" 

"Your own ugly face will do. 
We're headed for Washington." 
Nevertheless we did stop in Cos- 
metics, but only for street clothes, 
a gun, and to have my phone 
checked. 

The door guard made us bare 



our backs before he would let ut 
approach and check out. We went 
on up, coming out in the lower 
levels of New Philadelphia. "I 
take it this burg is clean?" I said 

to the Old Man. 

"If you do, you are rusty in the 
head," he answered. "Keep your 
eyes peeled." 

The presence of so many fully 
clothed humans bothered me; I 
found myself drawing away and 
watching for round shoulders. 
Getting into a crowded elevator 
to go up to the launching plat- 
form seemed downright reckless. 
When we were in our car and the 
controls set, I said, "I could swear 
one cop we passed was wearing a 
hump." 

Possibly. Even probably." 
I thought you had this job 
taped and were fighting back on 
all fronts." 

"What would you suggest?" 

"Why, it's obvious — even if it 
were freezing cold, we ought not 
to see a back covered up any- 
where, not until we know the 
parasites are all dead." 

"That's right." 

"Well, then— Look, the Presi- 
dent knows the score, doesn't he?** 

'He knows it." 

'What's he waiting for? He 

should declare martial law and 
get action." 

The Old Man stared down at 
the countryside. "It's time you 
learned the political facts of life* 



44 



it 



it 



4t 1 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



103 



Congresses have refused to act in 
the face of obvious dangers. This 
one isn't obvious. The evidence is 
slim and hard to believe," 

"But how about the Assistant 
Secretary of the Treasury? They 
can't ignore that." 

"Can't they? The honorable 
gent is in Walter Reed with a 
nervous breakdown and can't re- 
call what happened. The Treas- 
ury Department gave out that an 
attempt to assassinate the Presi- 
dent had been foiled — true, but 
not the way they meant it." 

"And the President held still 
for that?" 

"There are men in both Houses 
who want his head on a platter. 
Party politics is a rough game." 

"Good Lord, partisanship does- 
n't figure in a case like this!" 

The Old Man cocked an eye- 
brow. "You think not, eh?" 

I finally managed to ask him 
the question I had come into his 
office to ask: "Where is Mary?" 

"Odd question from you " he 

grunted. I let it ride; he went on, 
"Where she should be. Guarding 
the President." 

We went first to a closed session 
of a joint special committee. 
When we got there they were run- 
ning stereos of my anthropoid 
friend, Napoleon — shots of him 
with the titan on his back, then 
closeups of the titan. One parasite 
looks like another, but I knew 
which one this was and I was 



deeply, glad it was dead. 

The ape gave way to me. I saw 
myself being clamped into the 
chair. I hate to admit how I look- 
ed; real funk is not pretty. I saw 
them lift the titan off the ape and 
onto my own bare back. Then I 
fainted in the picture — and al- 
most fainted watching. I won't 
describe it; I can't. 

But I saw the thing die. That 
was worth sitting through the 
rest. 

The film ended and the chair- 
man said, "Well, gentlemen?" 

"Mr. Chairman!" 

"The gentleman from Indiana 
is recognized." 

"Speaking without prejudice to 
the issue, I have seen better trick 
photography from Hollywood." 

The head of our bio lab testi- 
fied, and then I found myself 

4 

called to the stand. I gave my 
name, address, occupation, and 
perfunctorily was asked about my 
experiences under the titans. Thp, 
questions were read from a sheet* &, 
From the floor, one Senator said 
to me, "Mr. Nivens — your name 
is Nivens?" I nodded. "You say 

that you are an investigator?" 

"Yes." 

"F. B. t, no doubt?" 

"No, my chief reports directly 
to the President." 

The Senator smiled. "Just as I 
thought. Now, Mr. Nivens, as a 
matter of fact you are an actor, 
are you not?" 



104 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



I wanted to say that I had once 
acted one season of summer stock, 
but that I was, nevertheless, a 
real, live, sure-enough investiga- 
tor. The next thing I knew the 
clerk was saying, "Stand down, 
Mr. Nivens." 

I sat tight. "Look here " I said. 
"It's evident that you think this 
is a put-up job. Well, for the love 
of heaven, bring in a lie detector! 
Or use the sleep test. This hearing 
is a joke." 

The chairman banged his gavel. 
"Stand down, Mr. Nivens/' 

I stood. 

The Old Man had told me that 
the purpose of the meeting was to 
report out a joint resolution de- 
claring total emergency and vest- 
ing war powers in the President. 
We were ejected before the vote. I 
said to the Old Man, "It looks 
bad." 

; "Forget it," he said. "The'Pres- 
ident knew this gambit had failed 
<,... when he heard the names of the 
.ft * committee." 

"Where does that leave us? Do 
we wait for the slugs to take over 
Congress, too?" 

"The President goes right ahead 
with a message to Congress re- 
questing full powers." 

"Will he get them?" 

The Old Man simply scowled. 

■ 

HPHE joint session was secret, 

-■- but we were present— direct 

orders of the President. The Old 



Man and I were on that little bal- 
cony business back of the Speak- 
er's rostrum. They opened with 
full rigamarole and then went 
through the ceremony of notifying 
the President. He came in at once, 
escorted by the delegation. His 
guards were with him, but they 
were all our men. 

Mary was with him, too. Some- 
body set up a folding chair for 

her, right by the President. She 
fiddled with a notebook and 
handed papers to him, pretending 
to be a secretary. But the disguise 
ended there; she looked like Cleo- 
patra on a warm night. 

I caught her eye and she gave 
me a long, sweet smile. I grinned 
like a collie pup until the Old 
Man dug me in the ribs. Then I 
settled back and tried to behave. 

The President made a reasoned 
explanation of the situation. It 
was as straightforward and ra- 
tional as an engineering report, 
and about as moving. He put 
aside his notes at the end. "This 
is such a strange and terrible 
emergency, so totally beyond any 
previous experience, that I must 
ask broad powers to cope with it. 
In some areas, martial law must 
be declared. Because any citizen, 
no matter how respected or loyal, 
may be the unwilling servant of 
these secret enemies, all citizens 
must face some loss of rights and 
personal dignities until this 
plague is killed. 



THE PUPPET MA STERS 



105 



"With utmost reluctance, I ask 
that you authorize these necessary 
steps." With that he sat down. 

You can feel a crowd. They 
were uneasy, but he did not carry 
them. The President of the Senate 
looked at the Senate majority 
leader; it had been programmed 
for him to propose the resolution. 

I don't know whether the floor 
leader shook his head or signaled, 
but he did not take the floor. 
Meanwhile the delay was awk- 
ward and there were cries of 
"Mister President!" and "Order!" 

The Senate President passed 
over several others and gave the 
floor to a member of his party- 
Senator Gottlieb, a wheelhorse 
who would vote for his own 
lynching if it were on his party's 
program. He started out by yield- 
ing to none in his respect for the 
Constitution, the Bill of Rights, 
and probably the Grand Canyon- 
He pointed modestly to his own 
long service and spoke well of 
America's place in history. I 
thought he was stalling while the 
boys worked out a new shift, 
when I suddenly realized that his 
words were adding up to mean- 
ing: he was proposing to suspend 
the order of business and get on 
with the impeachment and trial 
of the President of the United 
States! 

I tumbled to it as quickly as 
anyone; the Senator had his pro- 
posal so decked out in ritualistic 



verbiage that it was hard to tell 
what he was saying. I looked at 
the Old Man. 

The Old Man was looking at 
Mary. 

She was looking back at him 
with an expression of extreme 
urgency. 

The Old Man snatched a pad 
from his pocket, scrawled some- 
thing, wadded it up, and threw it 
down to Mary. She caught it, read 
it, and passed it to the President, 

He was sitting, relaxed and 
easy, as if one of his oldest friends 
were not tearing his name to 
shreds and, with it, the safety of 
the Republic. He read the note, 
then glanced unhurriedly around 
at the Old Man. The Old Man 
nodded. 

The President nudged the Sen- 
ate President, who banged his 
gavel. "If the Senator please!" 

Gottlieb looked startled and 
said, "I do not yield." 

"The Senator is not asked to 
yield. Because of the importance 
of what he is saying, the Senator 
is asked to come to the rostrum 
to speak." 

Gottlieb was puzzled, but he 
walked slowly toward the front 
of the House. Mary's chair 
blocked the steps up to the ros- 
trum. Instead of getting out of 
the way, she fumbled around, 
turning and picking up the chair, 
so that she got even more in the 
way. Gottlieb stopped and she 



106 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



brushed against him. He caught 
her arm, as much to steady him- 
self as her. She spoke to him and 
he to her, but no one else could 
hear the words. Finally he went 
on to the front of the rostrum. 

The Old Man was quivering 
like a dog in point. Mary looked 
up and nodded. The Old Man 
said,*"Take him!" 

I was over that rail in a flying 
leap and landed on Gottlieb's 
shoulders. I heard the Old Man 
shout, "Gloves, son! Gloves!" I 
did not stop for them, I split the 
Senator's jacket with my bare 
hands and I could see the slug 
pulsing under his shirt. I tore the 
shirt so anybody could see it. 

Six stereo cameras could not 
have recorded what happened in 
the next few seconds- I slugged 
Gottlieb to stop his thrashing. 
Mary was sitting on his legs. The 
President was standing over me 
and shouting, "There! Now you 
can all see." The Senate President 
was standing stupefied, waggling 
his gavel. Congress was a mob, 
men yelling and women scream- 
ing. Above me the Old Man was 
shouting orders to the Presiden- 
tial guards. i 

Between the guns of the guards 
and pounding of the gavel, some 
order was restored. The President 
started to talk. He told them that 
fortune had given them a chance 
to file past and see for themselves 
one of the titans from Saturn's 



largest moon. Without waiting for 
consent, he pointed to the front 
row and told them to come up. 

Mary stayed on the platform. 
About twenty had filed by when 
1 saw Mary signal the Old Man. 
This time I was a hair ahead of 
his order. I might have had quite 
a fight if two of the boys had not 
been close by, because this one 
was young and tough, an ex- 
marine. We laid him beside Gott- 
lieb. 

Then it was "inspection and 
search" whether they liked it or 
not. I patted the women on the 
back as they came by and caught 
one. I thought I had caught an- 
other, but it was an embarrassing 
mistake; it was just blubber fat. 
Mary spotted two more, and then 
there was a long stretch, three 
hundred or more, with no jack- 
pots. It was evident that some 
were hanging back. 

Eight men with guns were not 
enough — eleven, counting the Old 
Man, Mary and me. Most of the 
slugs would have gotten away if 
the Whip of the House had not 
organized help. With their assist- 
ance, we caught thirteen, ten 
alive. One of the hosts was badly 
wounded. 

XIII 

SO the President got the au- 
thority and the Old Man was 
his de facto chief of staff; at last 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



107 



we could move. The Old Man had 
a simple campaign in mind. It 
could not be the quarantine he 
had proposed when the infection 
was limited to the Des Moines 
area. Before we could fight, we 
had to locate the enemy. Govern- 
ment agents couldn't search two 
hundred million people; the peo- 
ple had to do it themselves. 



"Schedule Bareback" was to be 
the first phase of "Operation 
Parasite." The idea was that 
everybody was to peel to the 
waist and stay peeled, until all 
titans were spotted and killed. 
Women could have halter strings; 
a parasite could not hide under 
one. 

We whipped up a display to go 




101 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



with the stereocast speech the 
President would make to the na- 
tion. Fast work had saved seven 

of the parasites we had flushed in 
the sacred halls of Congress; they 
were alive on animal hosts. We 
could show them and the less 
grisly parts of the film taken of 
me. Tin President himself would 
appear in shorts, and models 



vyoulri demonstrate what the Well 

Undressed Citizen Would Wear 
This Season, including the metal 

head-and-spine armor which wai 
intended to protect a person even 
when asl< < p. 

We got it ready in one black* 
coffee night. The smash finish was 
to show Congress in session, dis- 
cussing the emergency, and every 




THE PUPPET MASTERS 



t 



man. woman, and pageboy show- 
ing a bare back. 

With twenty-eight minutes left 
until stercocast time, the Presi- 
dent got a call from up the street. 
I was present; the Old Man had 
been with the President all night 
and had kept me around for 
chores. We were all in shorts; 
"Schedule Bareback" had already 
started in the White House. The 
President did not bother to cut 
us out of his end of the conver- 
sation. 

"Speaking," he said. Presently 
he added, "You feel certain? Very 
well. John, what do you advise? 
. . . I see. No, I don't think that 
would work ... I had better come 
up the street. Have them ready/* 

He pushed back the phone and 

turned to an assistant. "Tell them 
to hold up the broadcast." He 
turned to the Old Man. "Come, 
we must go to the Capitol/' 

He sent for his valet and re- 
tired into a dressing room adjoin- 
ing his office. When he came out, 
he was formally dressed for a 
state occasion. He offered no ex- 
planation. The rest of us stayed in 
our gooseflesh specials and so we 
went to the Capitol. 

It was a joint session and I got 
that no-pants-in-church night- 
mare feeling, for the Congress- 
men and Senators were dressed ^s 
usual. Then I saw that the page- 
boys were in shorts without shirts 

and felt better. 



Apparently some people would 
rather be dead than lose dignity, 
with Congress high on the list. 
They had given the President the 
authority he asked for; "Schedule 
Bareback" itself had been dis- 
cussed and approved, but they 
did not see that it applied to 
them. After all, they had been 
searched and cleaned out. Maybe 
some saw holes in the argument, 
but not one wanted to be first in 
a public striptease. They sat tight, 
fully dressed. 

When the President took the 
rostrum, he waited until he got 
dead silence. Then slowly, calmly, 
he started taking off clothes. He 
stopped when he was bare to the 
waist. He then turned around, 

lifting his arms. At last he spoke* 
"I did that/' he said, "so that 
you might see that your Chief 
Executive is not a prisoner of the 
enemy." He paused, punched a 
finger at the junior Whip. "Mark 
Cummings, are you a loyal citi- 
zen or are you a zombie spy? Get 
your shirt off!" 

"Mister President — " It was 
Charity Evans, from the State of 
Maine, looking like a pretty 
schoolteacher. She stood and I 
saw that, while she was fully 
dressed, she was in evening dress. 

Her gown reached to the floor, but 
was cut as deep as could be above. 
She turned like a mannequin; in 
back the dress ended at the base 
of her spine. "Is this satisfactory 



110 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



attire, Mr. President?" 

'■Quite satisfactory, Madam." 

Cummings was fumbling at his 
jacket; his face was scarlet. Some- 
one stood up in the middle of the 
hall — Senator Gottlieb. He looked 
as if he should have been in bed. 
His cheeks were gray and sunken, 
his lips showed cyanosis, but he 
held himself erect and, with in- 
credible dignity, followed the 
President's example. Then he, too, 
turned all the way around. On 
his back was the scarlet mark of 
the parasite. 

He spoke. "Last night I stood 
here and said things I would 
rather have been flayed alive than 
utter. Last night I was not my 
own master. Today I am." Sud- 
denly he had a gun in his hand. 
"Up on your feet! Two minutes 
to show a bare back or I shoot!" 

Men close to him tried to grab 
his arm, but he swung the gun 
around like a fly-swatter, smash- 
ing one of them in the face. I had 
my own out, ready to back his 
play, but it was not necessary. 
They could see that he was as 
dangerous as an old bull. They 
started shucking clothes like 
Doukhobors. 

One man bolted for a door; he 
was tripped. No, he was not wear- 
ing a parasite. But we did- catch 
three. After that the show went 
on the channels ten minutes late 
and Congress started the first of 
its "bareback" sessions. 



XIV 

"T OCK your doors!" 

-" "Close the dampers on your 
fireplaces!" 

"Never enter a dark place!" 

"Be wary of crowds!" 

"A man wearing a coat is an 
enemy — shoot him!" 

In addition to a steady barrage 
of propaganda, the country was 

being quartered and sectioned 
from the air, searching for Fly- 
ing Saucers on the ground. Our 
radar screen was on full alert for 
unidentified blips. Military units, 
from airborne troops to guided- 
rocket stations, were ready to 
smear any that landed. 

In the uncontaminated areas 
people took off their shirts, will- 
ingly or reluctantly, looked 
around them and found no para- 
sites. They watched their news- 
casts and wondered and waited 
for the government to tell them 
that the danger was over. But 
nothing happened, and both lay- 
men and local officials began to 
doubt the necessity of running 
around in sunbathing costumes. 

The contaminated areas? The 
reports from there were not ma~ 
terially different from the reports 
from other areas. 

Back in the days of radio it 
could not have happened; the 
Washington station where the 
'cast originated could have blank- 
eted the country. But stereo-video 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



1*1 



rides wave-lengths so short that 
horizon-to-horizon relay is neces- 
sary and local channels must be 
squirted out of local stations. It's 
the price we pay for plenty of 
channels and high-resolution pic- 
tures. 

In the infected areas the slugs 
controlled the local stations; the 
people apparently never heard 
the warning. 

But in Washington, we had 
every reason to believe that they 
had heard the warning. Reports 
came back from — well, Iowa, for 
example, just like those from Cal- 
ifornia. The governor of Iowa was 
one of the first to send a message 
to the President, promising full 
cooperation, There was even a 
relayed stereo of him addressing 
his constituents, bare to the waist. 
He faced the camera and I want- 
ed to tell him to turn around. 
Then they cut to another camera 
and we had a close up of a bare 
back, while the governor's voice 
continued. We listened to it in a 
conference room off the Presi- 
dent's office. The President had 
kept the Old Man with him, I 
tagged along, and Mary was still 
on watch. Secretary of Security 
Martinez was there as well as the 

Supreme Chief of Staff, Air Mar- 
shal Rexton. 

The President watched the 
'cast and turned to the Old Man. 
"Well, Andrew? I thought Iowa 
was a place we would have to 



be sure to fence off." 

The Old Man grunted. "Can't 
you folks see that the titans have 
won another round?" 

"Eh?" 



a 



You only heard the governor; 
they let us look at his back — or 
somebody's back. Did you notice 
that he didn't turn around in front 
of the camera?" 

"But he did," someone said. "I 
saw him." 

"I certainly had the impression 
that I saw him turn," said the 
President slowly. "You are sug- 
gesting that Governor Packer is 
himself possessed?" 

"Correct. You saw what you 
were meant to see. There was a 
camera cut just before he was 

fully turned; people hardly ever 
notice them. Depend on it, Mister 
President; every message out of 
Iowa is faked." 

The President looked thought- 
ful. Secretary Martinez said, "Im- 
possible! Granted that the gov- 
ernor's message could have been 
faked — a clever character actor 
could have faked it. But we've 
had our choice of dozens of 'casts 

# 

from Iowa. How about that street 
scene in Des Moines? Don't tell 
me that you can fake hundreds 
of people dashing around stripped 
to their waists. Or do your para- 
sites practice mass hypnotis?" 

"They can't that I know of." 
conceded the Old Man. "If they 
can, we might as well throw in the 



112 



GALAXY SCIENCE F I C T I C*J 



towel. But what made you think 

that 'cast came from Iowa?" 

"Why, it came over the Iowa 

channel." 

"It looked like any typical 
street in a downtown retail dis- 
trict. Never mind what city the 
announcer told you it was; what 
city was it?" 

I've got fairly close to the 
"camera eye" that detectives are 
supposed to have. I let that pic- 
ture run through my mind — and 
I not only could not tell what city. 
I could not even place the part of 
the country. It could have been 
Memphis, Seattle, or Boston, or 
none of them. Most downtown 
districts in American cities are as 
standardized as barber shops. 

"You don't know/' the Old 

Man went on. "I couldn't tell and 
I was looking for landmarks. The 
explanation is simple. The Des 
Moines station picked up a 
'Schedule Bareback' street scene 
from some city not contaminated 
and rechanneled it under their 
own commentary. Gentlemen, the 
enemy knows us. This campaign 
has been planned in detail and 
they are ready to outwit us in al- 
most any move we can make," 

"Aren't you being an alarmist 
Andrew?" said the President. 
"There is another possibility, that 

the titans have moved somewhere 
else." 

"They are still in Iowa," the 
Old Man said flatly, "but you 



won't prove it with that thing* 
He gestured at the stereo tank. 

Secretary Martinez squirmed. 
"This is ridiculous! You are say- 
ing that we can't get a correct 
report out of Iowa, as if it were 
occupied territory." 

"That's what it is. Control the 
communications of a country and 
you control the country. You had 
better move fast, Mister Secre- 
tary, or you won't have any com- 
munications left." 

"But I was merely—" 

The Old Man said rudely, "I've 
told you they are in Iowa and in 
New Orleans, and a dozen other 
spots. My job is finished." He 
stood up and said, "Mister Presi- 
dent, I've had a long pull for a 

man my age: when I lose sleep. I 

lose my temper. Could I b< ex- 
cused?" 

"Certainly, Andrew." He had 
not lost his temper and I think 
the President knew it. He doesn't 
lose his temper; he makes other 
people lose theirs. 

Secretary Martinez interrupted. 
"Wait a moment! You've made 
some flat statements. Let's check 
up." He turned to the Chief of 
Staff. "Restaur 

"Yes, sir." 

"That new post near Des 
Moines, Fort something-or-other, 

named after what's-his-name?" 

"Fort Patton." 

"That's it. Well, get them oa 
the command circuit — " 



THE PUPPET 



ASTERS 



U» 



''With visual," put in the Old 
Man. 

"With visual, of course, and 
we'll show this — I mean we'll get 
the true situation in Iowa." 

The Air Marshal handed a by- 
your-leave-sir to the President, 
went to the stereo tank and 
patched in with Security General 
Headquarters. He asked for the 
officer of the watch at Fort Pat- 
ton, Iowa. 

The tank showed the inside of 
a communications center. Filling 
the foreground was a young offi- 
cer. His rank and corps showed 
on his cap, but his chest was bare. 
Martinez turned triumphantly to 
the Old Man. 

"You see?" 

"I see." 

"Now to make certain. Lieu- 
tenant!" 

"Yes, sir!" The young fellow 
looked awestruck and kept glanc- 
ing from one famous face to an- 
other. Reception and bi-angle 
were in sync; the eyes of the 
image looked where they seemed 
to look. 

"Stand up and turn around," 
Martinez continued. 

"Uh? Why, certainly, sir." He 

seemed puzzled, but did so, and 
it took him almost out of scan. 
We could see his bare back up to 
the short ribs — no higher. 

"Confound it!" shouted Mar- 
tinez. "Sit down and turn around." 
Yes, sir!" The youth seemed 



<4 



flustered. He added, "Just a mo- 
ment while I widen the view 
angle, sir." 

The picture melted and rippling 
rainbows chased across the tank. 

The young officer's voice was still 

coming over the audio channel*. 

"There, is that better, sir?" 

"Damn it, we can't see a thing!" 
"You can't? Just a moment, 



114 



sir." 

Suddenly the tank came to life 
and I thought for a moment that 
we were back at Fort Patton. But 
it was a major in the screen this 
time and the place looked larger. 
"Supreme Headquarters " the im- 
age announced. "Communications 
officer of the watch, Major Dono- 
van." 

"Major," Martinez said in con- 
trolled tones, "I was hooked in 
with Fort Patton. What hap- 
pened?" 

"Yes, sir; I was monitoring it. 
We've had a slight technical diffi- 
culty. We'll put your call through 
again in a moment." 

"Well, hurry!" 

The Old Man stood up. "Call 
me when you've cleared up that 
'slight technical difficulty.' I'm 

going to bed." * 

■ 

XV 

IF I have given the impression 
that Secretary Martinez was 
stupid, I am sorry. Everyone had 
trouble at first believing what the 

ALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



slugs could do, including me. 
There were no flies on Marshal 
Rexton,, either. The two worked 
all night, after convincing them- 
selves by more calls to known 
danger spots that "technical inter- 
ruptions*' do not occur so con- 
veniently. They called the Old 
Man about four A.M. and he 
called me. 

They were in the same room, 
Martinez, Rexton, a couple of his 
brass, and the Old Man. The 
President came in, wearing a 
bathrobe and followed by Mary, 
as I arrived. Martinez started to 
speak but the Old Man cut in. 
"Let's see your back, Tom I" 

Mary signaled that everything 
was okay, but the Old Man chose 
not to see her. "I mean it," he 
persisted. 

The President said quietly, 
"Perfectly correct, Andrew," and 
slipped his robe off his shoulders. 
His back was clean. "If I don't 
set an example, how can I expect 
others to cooperate?" 

Martinez and Rexton had been 
shoving pins into a map, red for 
bad, green for good, and a few 
amber ones for doubtful. Iowa 
looked like measles; New Orleans 
and the Teche country were no 
better. So was Kansas City. The 
upper end of the Missouri-Mis- 
sissippi system, from Minneapolis 
and St. Paul down to St. Louis, 
was clearly enemy territory. 
There were fewer red pins from 



there down to New Orleans — but 
no green ones. There was a hot 
spot around El Paso and two on 
the East Coast. 

The President looked it over. 
"We shall need the help of Can- 
ada and Mexico," he said. "Any 
reports?" 

"None that mean anything, 



sir. 



i* 



"Canada and Mexico," the Old 
Man said seriously, "will be just 
a start. You are going to need 
the whole world." 

The President drew a finger 
across the map, "Any trouble 
getting messages to the West 
Coast?" 

"Apparently not, sir," Rexton 
told him. "The parasites don't 
seem to interfere with straight- 
through relay. But all military 
communications I have shifted to 
relay through the space stations/* 
He glanced at his watch finger, 
"Station Gamma, at the mo- 
ment." 

"Hmrnm — " said the President, 
worried. "Andrew, could these 
things storm a space station?*' 

"How would I know?" the Old 
Man answered testily. "I don't 
know whether their ships are built 
for it or not. More probably 
they would do it by infiltration, 
through the supply rockets." 

"Don't worry about it," Rexton 
said. "The costume we are wear- 
ing is customary in a station. A 
man fully dressed would stand 



THE PUPPET MAS TERS 



115 



out like an overcoat on the beach. 
But we'll see." He gave orders to 
an assistant. 

The President resumed study- 
ing the map. "So far as we know," 
he said, pointing to Grinnell, 
Iowa, "all this derives from a 
single landing, here." 

The Old Man answered, "So far 
as we know." 

I said, "Oh, no!" They all 
looked at me. "There were at 
least three more landings — I 
know there were — before I was 
rescued." 

The Old Man looked dumb- 
founded. '"Are you sure, son? We 
thought we had wrung you dry." 

"Of course I'm sure." 

"Why didn't you mention it?" 

I tried to explain how it feels 
to be possessed, how you know 
what is going on, but everything 
seems dreamy, equally important 
and unimportant. I grew quite 
upset. I am not the jittery type, 
but being ridden by a master does 
something to you. 

The Old Man said, "Steady 
down, son," and the President 
gave me a reassuring smile. 

Rexton said, "Thfc point is: 
where did they land? We might 
still capture a ship." 

"I doubt it," the Old Man an- 
swered. "They did a cover-up on 
the first one in a matter of hours. 
If it was the first," he added 
thoughtfully. 

I went to the map and tried to 

116 



think. Sweating, I pointed to New 
Orleans. "I'm pretty sure one was 
about here. I don't know where 
the others landed." 

"How about here?" Rexton 
asked, pointing to the East Coast. 

"I don't know." 

"Can't you remember anything 
else?" Martinez demanded, an- 
noyed. "Think, man!" 

I thought until my skull ached, 
then pointed to Kansas City. 4i I 
sent several messages here, but I 
don't know whether they were 
shipment orders or not." 

Rexton looked at the map. 
"We'll assume a landing near 
Kansas City. The technical boys 
can do a problem on it. It may 
be subject to logistic analysis; 

we might derive the other land- 
ing." 

"Or landings," added the Old 
Man. 

XVI 

HINDSIGHT is confoundedly 
futile. At the moment the 
first Saucer landed, the menace 
could have been stamped out by 
one bomb. At the time Mary, the 
Old Man and I reconnoitered 
around Grinnell, we three alone 

might have killed every slug, had 
we known where they all were. 
Had "Schedule Bareback" been 
ordered during the first week, it 
alone might have turned the trick. 
But it was quickly clear that 



s 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



"Schedule Bareback" had failed 
as an offensive measure. As a de- 
fense it was useful. The uncon- 
taminated areas could be kept so. 
Areas contaminated but not 
"scoured" were cleaned up — 
Washington itself, and New 
Philadelphia. New Brooklyn, too 
— there I had been able to give 
specific advice. The entire East 
Coast turned from speckled to 
solid green. 

But as the middle of the coun- 
try filled in on the map, it filled 
in red. The infected areas stood 
out in ruby light now, for the 
wall map studded with pins had 
been replaced by a huge elec- 
tronic military map, ten miles to 
the inch, covering one wall of 
the conference room. It was a 
repeater map, the master being 
down in the New Pentagon. 

The country was split in two, 
as if a giant had washed red pig- 
ment down the central valley. 
Two amber paths bordered the 
band held by the slugs; these 
were the only areas of real ac- 
tivity, places where line-of-sight 
reception was possible both from 
stations held by the enemy and 
from stations still in the hands of 
free men. One started near Min- 
neapolis, swung west of Chicago 
and east of St. Louis, then me- 
andered through Tennessee and 
Alabama to the Gulf. The other 
cut a path through the Great 
Plains and came out near Corpus 



Christi. El Paso was the center 
of a ruby area unconnected with 
the main body. 

I wondered what was going on 
in those border strips. I was 
alone; the Cabinet was meeting 
and the President had taken the 
Old Man with him. Rexton and 
his brass had left earlier. I stayed 
because I hesitated to wander 
around in the White House, so 
I fretted and watched amber 
lights blink red and, much less 
frequently, red lights blink amber 
or green. 

I wondered how a visitor with 
no status managed to get break- 
fast. I had been up since four 
and so far I had had one cup of 
coffee, served by the President's 
valet. Even more urgently, I 
wanted to find a washroom. At 
last I got desperate enough to 
try doors. The first two were 
locked; the third was what I 
wanted. It was not marked "Sa- 
cred to the Chief" so I used it. 

When I came back, Mary was 
in the map room. 

I looked at her stupidly. "I 
thought you were with the Presi- 
dent/' 

She smiled. "I got chased out. 
The Old Man took over." 

"Mary, I've been wanting to 
talk with you and this is the first 
chance IVe had. I guess — Well, 
anyway, I shouldn't have — I 
mean, according to the Old 
Man — " I stopped, my carefully 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



117 



ehearsed speech in ruins. "I 

houldn't have said what I did,** 
1 concluded miserably. 

She put a hand on my arm. 

"What you said and what you 

did were fair enough on the basis 

A what you knew. The important 

hing, to me, is what you did for 

le. The rest does not matter^ 

xcept that I am happy again to 

now that you don't despise me." 

"Damn it, don't be so noble!" 

She gave me a merry smile, not 

at all like the gentle one with 

which she had greeted me. "Sam, 

[ think you like your women to 

be a bit bitchy. I warn you, I 

^can be." She went on, "You are 

still worried about that slap, too. 

All right, I'll pay it back." She 

reached up and patted me gently 
on the cheek. "There, it's paid 
and you can forget it." 

Her expression suddenly 
changed, she swung on me, and 
I thought my head had been 
taken off. "And that," she said, 
"pays back the one I got from 
your girl friend!" 

I raised a hand and she tensed 
— but I just wanted to touch my 
stinging cheek. "She's not my girl 
friend," I said lamely. 

We eyed each other and simul- 
taneously burst out laughing. She 
put her hands on my shoulders 
and let her head collapse on my 
right one, still laughing. "Sam," 
. she managed to say, **Fm so 
sorry. I shouldn't have done it. 



«. 



««' 



At least I shouldn't have slapped 
you so hard/' 

"The devil youVe sorry," I 
growled, "but you didn't have to 
have put english on it. You damn 
near took the hide off." 

"Poor Sam! 1 ' She touched it; 
it hurt. "She's really not your girl 
friend?" 

"No, but not because I didn't 
try." 

"I'm sure it wasn't. Who is 
your girl friend, Sam?" 
You are, you vixen!" 
Yes," she said comfortably, 
**I am — if you'll have me. I told 
you that before. Bought and paid 
for." 

She was waiting to be kissed; 
I pushed her away. "Go to hell. 
I don't want you bought and paid 
for." 

"I put it badly. Paid for, but 
not tibught. I'm here because I 
want to be. Now will you kiss 

me, please?" • 

I felt myself sinking into a 
warm golden haze and I did not 
ever want to come up. Finally I 

had to break and gasp, "I think 
I'll sit down for a minute." 

She said, "Thank you, Sam/* 
and let me. 

MARY," I said presently, 
"there is something I am 
hoping you possibly could do for 
me." 

"Yes?" she asked eagerly. 
"Tell me how in the name of 



lit 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



Ned a person gets breakfast 
around here. Vm starved." 

She looked startled, but she an- 
swered, "Why, certainly!" 

I don't know how she did it; 
she may have butted into the 
White House pantry and helped 
herself, but she returned in a few 
minutes with sandwiches and two 
bottles of beer. I was cleaning up 
my third corned beef on rye when 
I said, "Mary, how long do you 
figure that meeting will last?*' 

"Oh, I'd give it a minimum of 
two hours. Why?" 

"In that case/' I said, swallow- 
ing the last bite, "we have time 
to duck out, find a registry office, 
get married and return before the 
Old Man misses us," 

She did not answer. Instead she 
stared at the bubbles in her beer. 
"Well?" I insisted. 

She raised her eyes. "I'll do it 
if you say so." 

"You don't want to marry 
me?" 

"Don't be angry, darling. You 
don't know me yet. Get ac- 
quainted with me; you might 
change your mind." 

"Fm not in the habit of chang- 
ing my mind." 

She glanced up, then looked 
away sadly. I felt my face get 
hot. "That was a very special cir- 
cumstance," I protested. "It could 
not happen to us again in a hun- 
dred years. That wasn't me talk- 
ing; it was — ' 



»» 



She stopped me. "I know, Sam. 
But you don't have to prove any- 
thing. I won't run out on you and 
I didn't mistrust you. Take me 
away on a weekend; better yet, 
move into my apartment. If I 
wear well, there's always time 
to make me what great-grand- 
mother called an 'honest woman,* 
heaven knows why." 

I must have looked sullen. She 
put a hand on mine and said seri- 
ously, "Look at the map, Sam." 

I turned my head. Red as ever, 
or more so — the danger zone 
around El Paso had increased. 
She went on, "Let's get this 
cleaned up first, dear. Then, if 
you still want to, ask me again. 
In the meantime, you can have 
the privileges without the respon- 
sibilities." 

What could be fairer than that? 

The trouble was it was not the 
way I wanted it. Why will a man 
who has been avoiding marriage 
like the plague suddenly decide 
that nothing less will suit him? 

WHEN the meeting was over, 
the Old Man collared me 
and took me for a walk. Yes, a 

walk, though we went only as far 
as the Baruch Memorial Bench. 
There he sat down, fiddled with 
his pipe, and scowled. The day 
was as muggy as only Washing- 
ton can get; the park was almost 
deserted. 

He said, " 'Schedule Counter 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



119 



Blast* starts at midnight. We 
swoop down on every relay sta- 
tion, broadcast station, newspa- 
per office, and Western Union 
office in 'Zone Red'." 

"Sounds good," I answered. 
* 4 How many men?" 

He did not answer. "I don't 
like it" 

"Hull?" 

"The President went on chan- 
nels and told everybody to peel 
off their shirts. We find that the 
message did not reach infected 
territory. What's the next devel- 
opment?" 

I shrugged. " 'Schedule Counter 
Blast,' I suppose." 

"That hasn't happened yet. 
Think — it has been more than 

twenty-four hours. What should 
have happened and hasn't?" 

"Should I know?" 

"You should, if you are ever 
going to amount to anything on 
your own. Here." He handed me 
a combo key. "Scoot out to Kan- 
sas City and take a look-see. Stay 
away from comm stations, cops, 
and — stay away from them. Look 
at everything else. And don't get 
caught. Be back here a half hour 
before midnight. Get going." 

"A lot of time you allow to case 
ft whole city," I complained. "It 
will take three hours just to drive 
to Kansas City." 

"More than three hours/* he 
answered. "Don't attract atten- 
tion by getting a ticket. Move, 



»* 



So I moved. The combo was 
to the car we had comedown in; 
I picked it up at Rock Creek Park 
platform. Traffic was light and I 
commented on it to the des- 
patches "Freight and commercial 
carriers are grounded," he an- 
swered. "The emergency. You got 
a military clearance?" 

I could get one by phoning the 
Old Man, but bothering him 
about trivial things does not en- 
dear one to him. I said, "Check 
the combo." 

He shrugged and slipped it in 
his machine. My hunch had been 
right; his eyebrows shot up. "Boy, 
you rate!" he commented. "You 
must be the President's caddy!" 

Once launched, I set the con- 
trols for Kansas City at legal 
max and tried to think. The 
transponder beeped as radar 
beams hit it each time I slid from 
one control block into the next, 
but no faces appeared on the 
screen. Apparently the Old Man's 
combo was good for the route, 
emergency or not. I began to won- 
der what would happen when I 

slipped over into the red areas— 
and then realized what he had 
meant by "the next develop- 
ment." 

One tends to think of commu- 
nications as meaning line-of -sight 
channels and nothing else. But 
"communications" means all traf- 
fic, even dear old Aunt Mamie, 
headed for California and stuffed 



120 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



with gossip. The slugs had seized 
the channels, but news can't be 
stopped that easily; such meas- 
ures merely slow it down. Ergo, 
if the slugs expected to retain 
control where they were, seizing 
the channels would be just their 
first step. 

■ What would they do next? 
They would do something and I, 
being a part of "communications" 
by definition, had better be pre- 
pared for evasive action if I 
wanted to save my pink skin. 
The Mississippi River and Zone 
Red were sliding closer by the 
minute. I wondered what would 
happen the first time my recogni- 
tion signal was picked up by a 
station controlled by masters. 

I judged that I was probably 
safe in the air, but that I had 
better not let them spot me land- 
ing. Elementary. 

"Elementary" in the face of a 

traffic control net which was de- 
scribed as the No -Sparrow- Shall - 
Fall plan. The traffic men boasted 
that a butterfly could not make a 
forced landing anywhere in the 
United States without alerting the 
search & rescue system. Not quite 
true — but I was no butterfly. 

On foot I will make a stab at 
penetrating any security screen, 
mechanical, manned, electronic, 
or mixed. But how can you use 
misdirection in a car making 
westing a full degree every seven 
minutes? Or hang a stupid^ in- 



nocent look on the nose of a 
duo? If I went in on foot, the 
Old Man would get his re- 
port come next Michaelmas; he 
wanted it before midnight. 

Once, in a rare mellow mood, 
the Old Man told me that he did 
not bother agents with detailed 
instructions. Give a man a mis- 
sion; let him sink or swim. I said 
his method must use up a lot of 
agents. 

"Some,'* he had admitted, "but 
not as many as the other way. I 
believe in the individual and I 
try to pick those who are survivor 
typop." 

"And how in hell," I had asked, 
"do you pick a 'survivor type'?" 

He had grinned wickedly. "A 

survivor type is one who comes 
back." 

i 

So I was about to find out 
which type I was — and damn his 
icy heart! 

Tt/|*Y course would take mc to- 
-*•" ward St. Louis, swing me 
around the city loop, and on to 
Kansas City. But St. Louis was 
in Zone Red. The map had shown 
Chicago as green; the amber line 
had zigzagged west somewhere 
above Hannibal, Missouri — and 
I wanted very badly to cross the 
Mississippi while still in Zone 
Green. A car crossing that mile- 
wide river would make a radar 
blip as sharp as a desert star. 
I signaled block control for per- 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



121 



mission to descend to local-traffic 
level, then did so without waiting, 
resuming manual control and cut- 
ting my speed. I headed north. 

Short of the Springfield loop I 
headed west, staying low. When 
I reached the river I crossed 
slowly, close to the water, with 
my transponder shut down. Sure, 
you can't shut off your radar rec- 
ognition signal in the air — but 
I had hopes, if local traffics were 
being monitored while I crossed, 
that my blip would be mistaken 
for a boat on the river. 

I did not know certainly 
whether the next block control 
station across the river was Zone 
Red or Zone Green. I was about 
to cut in the transponder again, 
on the assumption that it would 
be safer to get back into the traf- 
fic system, when I noticed the 
shoreline opening up ahead. The 
map did not show a tributary; I 
judged it to be an inlet, or a 
new channel not yet mapped. I 
dropped almost to water level and 
headed into it. The stream was 
narrow, meandering, almost over- 
hung by trees, and I had no more 
business taking a sky car into it 
than a bee has of flying down 
a trombone. But it afforded per- 
fect radar "shadow;" I could get 
lost in it. 

In a few minutes I was lost — 
lost myself, right off the map. 
The channel switched and turned 
and cut back and I was so busy 



bucking the car by hand that I 
lost all track of navigation, I 
swore and wished that the car 
were a triphib so that I could 
land on water. The trees suddenly 
broke; I saw a stretch of level 
land, kicked her over and squat- 
ted her in with a deceleration that 
nearly cut me in two against my 
safety belt. But I was down and 
no longer trying to play catfish 
in a muddy stream. 

I wondered what to do. No 
doubt there was a highway close 
by. I had better find it and stay 
on the ground. That was silly- 
there was no time for ground 
travel; I must get back into the 
air- But I did not dare until I 
knew positively whether traffic 

here was being controlled by free 

men or by slugs. 

I had not turned on the stereo 
since leaving Washington. Now I 
did so, hunting for a newscast, 
but not finding one. I got (a) a 
lecture by Myrtle Doolightly, 
Ph. D., on Why Husbands Grow 
Bored, sponsored by the Uth-a- 
gen Hormone Company; (b) a 
trio of girl hepsters singing // 
you Mean What I Think You 
Mean, What Are We Waiting 
For? (c) an episode in Lucre ti a 
Learns About Life. 

Dear Doctor Myrtle was fully 
dressed. The trio were dressed the 
way one would expect, but they 
did not turn their backs to the 
camera. Lucretia alternated hav- 



122 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



ing her clothes torn off with tak- 
ing them off willingly, but the 
camera always cut or the lights 
went out just before I could see 
if her back was bare— of slugs, 
that is. 

And none of it meant anything. 
Those programs could have been 
taped months before the Presi- 
dent announced "Schedule bare- 
back." I was still switching chan- 
nels, trying to find a newscast, 
when I found myself staring into 
the unctuous smile of an an- 
nouncer. He was fully dressed. 

It was one of those giveaway 



shows. He was saying: " — and 
some very lucky little woman sit- 
ting by her screen right this min- 
ute is about to receive, absolutely 
free, a General Atomics Six-in- 
One Automatic Home Butler. 
Will it be you? You? Or lucky 
you?" He turned away from scan; 
I could see his shoulders. They 
were covered by a jacket and dis- 
tinctly rounded, almost humped. 
I was inside Zone Red. 

SWITCHING off, I realized 
that I was being watched by 
a male about nine years old. He 




THE PUPPET 



AST ERS 






123 



was wearing only shorts — at his 

age that's standard style. I threw 
back the wind screen. "Hey, bub, 
Where's the highway?" 

He answered, "Road to Ma- 
con's up yonder. Say, mister, 
that's a Cadillac Zipper, ain't it?" 

"Sure thing. Where yonder?" 

"Give me a ride, huh, will 
you?" 

I shrugged. While he climbed 
in, I opened my kit, got out shirt, 
trousers, and jacket. I said, 
"Maybe I shouldn't put these on. 
Do people around here wear 
shirts?" 

He scowled. "Of course they 
do. Where do you think you are 

— in Arkansas?" I asked again 
about the road. He said, "Can I 
punch the button when we take 
off, huh?" 

I explained that we were going 
to stay on the ground. He was 
annoyed but condescended to 
point a direction. I drove cau- 
tiously as the car was heavy for 
unpaved countryside. Presently 
he said to turn. 

Quite a bit later, I stopped and 
said, "Are you going to show me 
that road, or am I going to wal- 
lop you?" He opened the door 
and slid out. "Hey!" I yelled. 

He looked back. "Over that 
way," he jeered. I turned the car, 
not expecting to find a highway, 
but it was only fifty yards away. 
The brat had caused me to drive 
©round three sides of a square 



so he'd get a longer ride. 

If you could call it a highway 
— there was not an ounce of rub- 
ber in the paving. Still, it was a 
road; I followed it to the west. 
All in all, I had wasted an hour. 

Macon, Missouri, seemed too 
normal to be reassuring; "Sched- 
ule Bareback" obviously had not 
been heard of. I gave serious 
thought to checking this town, 
then beating back the way I had 
come, while I could. Pushing far- 
ther into country which I knew 
to be controlled by the masters 
made me jittery; I wanted to run. 

But the Old Man had said 
Kansas City. I drove the belt 
around Macon and pulled into a 
landing flat on the west. There 
I queued up for local traffic 
launching and headed for Kan- 
sas City in a mess of farmers' 
copters and local craft. I would 
have to hold local speeds across 
the state, but that was safer than 
getting into the hot pattern with 
my transponder identifying my 
car to every block control. The 
field was automatically serviced; 
it seemed probable that I had 
managed to enter the Missouri 
traffic pattern without arousing 
suspicion. 

XVII 

KANSAS City was not hurt in 
the bombings, except on the 
east, where Independence used to 



124 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



be. Consequently it never hacfto 
be rebuilt. From the southeast 
you can drive as far as Swope 
Park before having to choose be- 
tween parking or paying toll to 
enter the city proper. Or you 
can fly in and make another 
choice: land in the landing flats 
north of the river and take the 
tunnels into the city, or land on 
the downtown platforms south of 
Memorial Hill. 

I decided not to fly in; I did 
not want to have to pick the car 
up through a checking system. I 
do not like tunnels in a pinch, 
nor launching platform elevators. 
A man can easily be trapped in 

them. 

Frankly, I did not want to go 

into the city at all. 

I roaded the car on Route 40 
and drove into the Meyer Boule- 
vard toll gate. The line waiting 
was quite long; I began to feel 
hemmed in as soon as another car 
filled in behind me. But the gate- 
keeper took my toll without 
glancing at me. I glanced at him, 
all right, but could not tell 
whether or not he was being 
ridden. 

I drove through the gate — only 
to be stopped just beyond. A bar- 
rier dropped in front of me and 
I barely managed to stop the car, 
wh< r< upon a cop stuck his head 
in. 

"Safety check," he said. "Climb 
out." I protested. "The city is 



having a safety drive," he ex- 
plained. "Here's your car check. 
Pick it up on the other side of 
the barrier. Get out and go in 
that door." 

He pointed to a building near 
the curb. 

"What for?" 

"Eyesight and reflexes. You're 
holding up the line." 

In my mind's eye I saw the 
map with Kansas City glowing 
red- That the city was "secured" 
I was sure; therefore this mild- 
mannered policeman was almost 
surely hag-ridden. But short of 
shooting him and making an 
emergency takeoff, there was 
nothing to do but comply. I got 
out grumbling and walked slowly 

toward the building. It was a 

temporary job with an old-style 
unpowered door. I pushed it open 
with a toe and glanced both sides 
and up before I entered. There 
was an empty anteroom with 

door beyond. 

Someone inside called, "Come 



in. 



?» 



There were two men in white 
coats, one with a doctor's re- 
flector strapped to his head. He 
said briskly, "This won't take a 
minute. Step over here." He 
closed the door I had entered: I 
heard the lock click. 

It was a sweeter setup than we 
had worked out for the Constitu- 
tion Club. Spread out on a table 
were transit cells for masters, al- 




THE PUPPET MASTERS 



125 



ready opened and warmed. The 
second man had one ready — for 
me, I knew — and was holding it 
toward him, so that I could not 
see the slug. The transit cells 
would not arouse alarm in the 
victims; the medical men always 
have odd things at hand. 

As for the test, I was being in- 
vited to place my eyes against 
the goggles of an ordinary visual 

acuity tester. The "doctor" would 

keep me there, blindfolded with- 
out knowing it and reading test 
figures, while his "assistant" fit- 
ted me with a master. No vio- 
lence, no slips, no protests. 

It was not necessary, as I had 
learned during my own "service," 
to bare the victim's back. Just 
touch the master * to the neck, 
then let the recruit himself ad- 
just his clothing to cover his 
master. 

"Over here," the "doctor" re- 
peated. "Place your eyes against 
the eyepieces." 

I went to the bench on which 
was mounted the acuity tester. 
Then I turned suddenly around- 

The assistant had moved in, 
the cell ready in his hands. As I 
turned he tilted it away from me. 

"Doctor," I said, "I wear con- 
tact lenses. Should I take them 
off first?" 

"No, no," he snapped. "Let's 
not waste time." 

'But, Doctor." I protested, "I 
want you to see how they fit. 



IVe had a little trouble with the 
left one." I lifted both hands and 
pulled back the lids of my left 
eye. "See?" 

He said angrily, "This is not a 
clinic. Now, if you please — " 
They were both in reach; moving 
quickly, I snapped my arms out 
and grabbed at the spot between 
each set of shoulderblades. With 
each hand I struck something soft 

under the coats and felt revulsion 
clutch me. 

Once I saw a cat struck by a 
ground car; the poor thing sprang 
straight up with its back arched 
the wrong way and all limbs fly- 
ing. These two unlucky men did 
the same thing. They contorted 
every muscle in a grand spasm. I 
could not hold them; they jerked 
out of my arms and flopped to the 
floor. But there was no need to 
hang on. After that first convul- 
sion they went limp. 

Someone was knocking. I called 
out, "Just a moment. The doctor 
is busy." It stopped. I made sure 
the door was locked, then bent 
over the "doctor" and pulled up 

his coat to see what I had done 
to his master. 

ThP* thing was a ruptured mess. 
So was the one on the other man. 
which pleased me heartily. I had 
determined to burn the slugs with 
my gun if they were not already 
dead, and I was not sure that I 
could do so without killing the 
hosts. I left the men to live or die 



126 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



be seized again by titans. I 
had no way to help them. 

The masters waiting in their 
cells were another matter. With a 
fan beam and max charge, I 
burned them all. There were two 

large crates against the wall; I 
beamed them also until the wood 

charred. 

The knocking resumed, I look- 
ed around hastily for somewhere 
to hide the two men, but there 
was nowhere, so I decided to run 
for it. As I was about to go out 
the exit, I felt that something was 
missing, I looked around again. 

There seemed to be nothing 
suited to my purpose. I could use 
clothing from the "doctor" or his 
helper, but I did not want to. 
Then I noticed the dust cover for 
the acuity tester. I loosened my 
jacket, snatched up the cover, 
wadded it and stuffed it under my 
shirt between my shoulders. With 
my jacket zipped, it made a bulge 
of about the proper size. 

Then I went out, feeling pretty 
cocky. 

Another cop took my car check. 
He glanced sharply at me, then 
motioned me to climb in. I did 
and he said, "Go to police head- 
quarters, under the City Hall.'* 

"Police headquarters, City 
Hall/' I repeated and gunned her 
ahead. I started in that direction 
and turned onto Nichols Freeway. 
1 came to a stretch where traffic 
thinned out, and punched the but- 



ton to shift license plates. It 
seemed possible that there was 
already a call out for the plates I 
had been showing at the gate. I 
wished that I had been able to 
change the car's colors as well. 

Before the Freeway reached 
Mcgee Traffic Way, I turned 
down a ramp and stuck there- 
after to sidestreets. It was eight- 
een hundred, Zone Six time, and 
I was due in Washington in four 
and one-half hours. 



XVIII 



' r T^HE city did not have the right 
■* flavor, as if it were a clumsily 
directed play. I tried to put my 
finger on the fault; it slipped 
away. 

Kansas City has many neigh- 
borhoods made up of family units 
a century old or more. Kids roll 
on lawns and householders sit on 
their front porches, just as their 
great-grandparents did. If there 
are bomb shelters around, they do 
not show. The queer, old, bulky 
houses, put together by guilds- 
men long since dead, make those 
neighborhoods feel like enclaves 
of security. I cruised through 
along streets, dodging dogs, rub- 
ber balls and toddlers, and tried 
to get the feel of the place. It 
was the slack of the day, time for 
a drink, for watering lawns, for 
neighborly chatting. I saw a 
woman bending over a flower bed. 




THE PUPPET MASTERS 



127 



She was wearing a sunsuit and 
her back was bare; clearly she 
was not wearing a master, nor 
were the two kids with her. What 
could be wrong? 

It was a very hot day; I began 
to look for sunsuited women and 
men in shorts. Kansas City is in 
the Bible Belt, so I found neople 
dressed both ways — but the pro- 
portions were wrong. Sure, there 
were plenty of kids dressed for 
the weather, but in several miles 
of driving I saw the bare backs 
of only five women and two men. 

I should have seen more like 
five hundred, 

Cipher it out. While some jack- 
ets undoubtedly did not cover 
masters, by simple proportion 

well over ninety per cent of the 

population must be possessed. 

The masters did not simply 
hold key points and key officials; 
the masters were the city. 

I felt a blind urge to blast off 
and streak out of Zone Red at 
emergency maximum. Knowing 
that I had escaped the gate trap, 
they would be looking for me. I 
might be the only free man driv- 
ing a car in the entire city — and 
th£y were all around me! 

I fought it down. An agent who 
turns panicky is not likely to get 
out of a tight spot. But it was 
hard to be calm. 

I must be wrong; there could 
not possibly be enough masters 
to saturate a city with a million 



population. I remembered my 
own experiences, recalling how we 
picked our recruits and made each 
new host count. Of course that 
had been a secondary invasion 
depending on shipments, whereas 
Kansas City almost certainly had 
had a Saucer land nearby. Still it 
did not make sense; it would take 
a dozen or more to carry enough 
masters to saturate Kansas City, 
If there had been that many, 
surely the space stations would 
have radar-tracked their landing 
orbits. 

Could it be that they had no 
trajectories to track? We did not 
know what the masters were 
capable of in engineering and it 
was not safe to judge their limi- 
tations by our own. 

But the data I had led to a 
conclusion which contradicted 
common logic; therefore I must 
check before I reported. One thing 
seemed sure: even if the masters 
had almost saturated this city, 
they were still keeping up the 
masquerade, permitting the city 
to look like a city of free human 
beings. Perhaps I was not as con- 
spicuous as I feared. 

I moseyed along another mile 
or so, going nowhere. Finding my- 
self heading into the retail district 
around the Plaza, I swung away. 
Where there are crowds, there are 
cops, and the masters make a 
special point of possessing police 
forces. I passed a public swim- 



m 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



ming pool; noticed it, and was 
several blocks away before I 
realized it had carried a sign — 

CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. 

Item: a trap at the city's toll 
gates; item: too few sunsuits; 
item: a swimming pool closed in 
the hottest part of the summer. 

Conclusion: the slugs were in- 
credibly more numerous than 
anyone had dreamed. 

Corollary: "Schedule Counter- 
blast" was based on a mistaken 
estimate; it would work as well as 
hunting rhinoceri with a sling- 
shot. 

Counter argument: I could 
hear Secretary Martinez' polite 
sarcasm tearing my report to 
shreds. I needed proof strong 
enough to convince the President 
over the reasonable objections of 
his official advisors — and I had to 
have it now. Breaking all traffic 
laws, I could not clip much off 
two and a half hours running time 
back to Washington. 

What should I do? Go down- 
town, mingle with crowds, and 
then tell Martinez that I was sure 
that almost every man I passed 
was possessed? How could I prove 
it? For that matter, how could I 
myself be certain? As long as the 
titans kept up the farce of "busi- 
ness as usual/' the telltales would 
be subtle, a super-abundance of 
round shoulders, not enough bare 
ones. 

I had some notion of how the 



city had been saturated, granting 
a large enough supply of slugs. I 
felt sure that I would encounter 
another toll gate trap on the way 
out and that there would be others 
on launching platforms and at 
every entrance and exit to the city 
proper. Every person leaving 
would be a new agent; every per- 
son entering would be a new slave, 

I had noticed a vendo-printer 
for the Kansas City Star on the 
last corner I had passed. Now I 
swung around the block, pulled 
up to it and got out. I shoved a 
dime in the slot and waited nerv- 
ously for my paper to be printed. 

The Star's format had its usual 
dull respectability — no excite- 
ment, no mention of an emer- 
gency, no reference to ''Schedule 
Bareback/* The lead story was 
headed phone service disrupted 
by sunspot storm, with a sub- 
head City Semi -Isolated by Solar 
Static. There was a 3-col, semi- 
stereo, tru-kolor of the sun, its 
face disfigured by cosmic acne. 
It was a convincing and unexcit- 
ing explanation of why Mamie 
Schultz, herself free of parasites, 
could not get her call through to 
Grandma in Pittsburgh. 

I tucked the paper under my 
arms to study later and turned 
back to my car . . . just as a po- 
lice car glided silently up and 
cramped in across the nose of it. 
A moment before the corner was 
deserted. Suddenly there were 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



12* 



people all around and the cop was 
coming toward me. My hand 
crept toward my gun; I would 
have dropped him had I not been 
sure that most of those around 
me were equally dangerous. 

He stopped in front of me. "Let 
me see your license/' he said 
pleasantly. 

"Certainly, officer. It's clipped 
to the instrument board/* I step- 
ped past him, letting it be as- 
sumed that he would follow. I 
could tcel him hesitate, then take 
the bait. I led him around be- 
tween my car and his. This let 
me see that he did not have a 
mate in his car. a most welcome 
variation from human practice. 

More important, it placed my car 
between me and the too-innocent 
bystanders. 

"There/' I said, pointing inside, 
"it's fastened down." Again he 
hesitated, then looked — long 
enough for my left hand to slap 
his shoulders and clutch with all 
its strength. 

His body seemed to explode, so 

« violent was the spasm. I was in 
the car and gunning it almost be- 
fore he hit the pavement. 

The masquerade broke as 
abruptly as it had in Barnes' 
outer office; the crowd closed in. 
One woman clung by her nails to 
the outside of the car for fifty feet 
or more before she fell off. By 
then I was making speed, cutting 
in and out of traffic, ready to 

130 



take to the air but lacking space. 

, A street showed up on the left. 
Islamrt^ed into it. It was a mis- 
take; trees arched over it and I 
could not take off. The next turn 
was even worse. Of necessity I 
slowed down. Now I was crufsing 
at conservative city speed, still 
watching for some boulevard wide 
enough for an illegal takeoff. My 
thoughts began to catch up and 
I realized that there was no sign 
of pursuit. 

My knowledge of the masters 

came to my aid. Except for "di- 
rect conference" a titan lives in 
and through his host; he sees 
what the host sees, receives and 
passes on information through 
whatever organs and by what- 
ever means are available to the 
host. It was unlikely that any of 
the slugs at that corner had been 
looking for that particular car 
other than the one inhabiting the 
body of a policeman — and I had 
settled with it! Now, of course, 
the other parasites present would 
be on the lookout for me, too, but 
they had only the abilities and 
facilities of their hosts. I de- 
cided that I need treat them with 
no more respect than I would 
give to any casual crowd of wit- 
nesses, i.e., ignore them; change 
neighborhoods and forget it. 

For I had barely thirty minutes 
left and I had decided on what I 
needed as proof — a prisoner, a 
man who had been possessed and 






GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



could tell what had happened to 
the city. I must act now. 

Even as I decided, I saw a man 
walking in the block ahead, step- 

ng along like a man who sees 
home and supper. I pulled along- 
side him and said, "Hey!" 

He stopped. "Yes?" „• 

"I've just come from City Hall. 
No time to explain — slide in and 
we'll have a direct conference." 

"City Hall? What are you talk- 
ing about?" 

I said, "Change in plans. Don't 
waste time. Get in!" 

He backed away. I jumped out 
and grabbed at his hunched 
shoulders. My hand struck hu- 
man flesh, and the man began to 
yell. 

I jumped into the car and got 
out of there fast- When I was 
blocks away I slowed and thought 
it over. Could it be that my nerves 
were so overwrought that I saw 
signs of titans where there were 
none? 

No! The toll gate, the sunsuits, 
the swimming pool, the cop at the 
vendo- printer — those facts I knew 
■ — and this last fact simply meant 
that I had picked the one man in 
ten, or whatever the odds were, 
who was not yet recruited. 

I speeded up, looking for a new 
victim. 

He was a middle-aged man 
watering his lawn, so normal in 
appearance that I was half a 
mind to pass him by. But I had 



no time left — and he wore a 
sweater which bulged suspicious- 
ly- 

He looked up as I stopped. 

"Fve just come from City Hall." 
I told ham. "You and I need a 
direct conference right away." 

He said quietly, "Come in the 
house. That car is too public." 

I wanted to refuse, but he was 
already heading for the house. As 
I came up he whispered, "Careful. 
The woman is not of us." 

Had I seen her on the veranda, 
I would have passed him by, for 
she was dressed in bra and skirt 
and so could not have been pos- 
sessed. 

"Your wife?" 

"Yes." 

We stopped on the porch and 
he said, "My dear, this is Mr. 
O'Keefe. We have business to dis- 
cuss. We'll be in the study." 

She smiled and answered, "Cer- 
tainly, my love. Good evening, 
Mr. O'Keefe. Sultry, isn't it?" 

I agreed and she went back to 
her knitting. We went inside, 
where the man ushered me into 
his study. Since we were keeping 
the masquerade I went in first, as 
befitted an escorted visitor. I did 
not like turning my back on him. 
For that reason I was half ex- 
pecting it; he hit me near the base 
of the neck. I rolled with it and 
went down almost unhurt. I con- 
tinued to roll and fetched up on 
my back. 




\ 



THE PUPPET- MASTERS 



131 



In training school they used to 
slap us with sandbags for trying 
to get up, once down. So I stayed 
down and was threatening him 
with my heels as soon as I hit. He 
shuffled out of range. Apparently 
he did not have a gun and I could 
not get at mine. But there was a 
real fireplace in the room, com- 
plete with poker, shovel, and 
tongs; he circled toward it. A 
small table was just out of my 
reach. I lunged, grabbed a leg 
and threw it. 

It caught him in the face as he 
grabbed the poker. Then I was on 
him. 

His master was dying in my 
fingers and he himself was con- 
vulsing under its last, terrible 

command when I became aware 
of his wife, screaming in the door- 
way. I bounced up and let her 
have one. She went down in mid- 
scream and I returned to her hus- 
band. 

A limp man is amazingly hard 
to lift and he was heavy. For- 
tunately I am a big husky; I 
managed a lumbering dog trot 
toward the car. I doubt if our 
fight disturbed anyone but his 
wife, but her screams must have 
aroused half that end of town. 
There were people popping out of 
doors on both sides of the street. 
So far, none of them was near, but 
I was glad that I had left the car 
door open. 

Then I was sorry; a brat like 



the one who had given me trouble 
earlier was inside, fiddling with 
the controls. Cursing, I dumped 
my prisoner in the lounge circle 
and grabbed the kid. He strug- 
gled, but I tore him loose and 
threw him out — into the arms of 
the first of my pursuers. He was 
still untangling himself when I 
slammed into the seat and shot 
forward without bothering with 
door or safety belt. 

As I took the first corner, the 
door swung shut and I almost 
went out of my seat. I held a 
straight course long enough to 
fasten the belt, cut sharp another 
corner, nearly ran down a ground 

car, and went on. 

I found a wide boulevard — the 
Paseo, I think — and jabbed the 
takeoff key. Possibly I caused 
several wrecks; I had no time to 
look. Without waiting to reach 
altitude, I wrestled her to course 
east. I kept her on manual across 
Missouri and expended every 
launching unit in her racks to give 
more speed. That reckless, illegal 
trick may have saved my neck; 
somewhere over Columbia, just 
as I fired the last one, I felt the car 
shake to concussion. Someone had 
launched an interceptor and the 
pesky thing had fused where I 
had just been. 

There were no more shots, 
which was good; I would have 
been a duck on water from then 
on. My starboard impeller began 



132 



CAIAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



to run hot. either from the near 

miss or simply from abuse. I let 
it befit, praying that it would not 
fly apart for another ten minutes. 

Then, with the Mississippi behind 
me and the indicator 'way up into 
"danger," I cut it out and let the 
car limp along on the port unit. 
Three hundred was the best she 
would do — but I was out of Zone 
Red. 

"■ HAD not had time to give my 
■* passenger more than a glance. 
He lay sprawled on the floor pads, 
unconscious or dead. Now that I 
was back among men and no 
longer had power for illegal 
speeds, there was no reason not 
to go automatic. I flipped the 

transponder, signaled a request 
for a block assignment, and put 

the controls on automatic with- 
out waiting for permission. I then 
swung around into the lounge and 
looked my man over. 

He was still breathing. There 
was a welt on his face, but no 
bones seemed broken. I slapped 
his face and dug thumbnails into 
his earlobes, but I could not rouse 
him. The dead slug was beginning 
to stink and I had no way to dis- 
pose of it. I left him and went 
back to the control seat. 

The chronometer read twenty- 
one thirty-seven, Washington time 
— and I still had better than six 
hundred miles to go. Allowing 
nothing for landing, for tearing 



over to the White House and 
finding the Old Man, I would 
reach Washington a few minutes 
after midnight. So I was already 
li:te and the Old Man was sure 
as the devil going to make me 
stay in after school for it. 

i 

I tried to start the starboard 
impeller. No dice. It was piob- 
ably frozen solid. Just as well. 
Anything that goes that fast can 
be explosively dangerous if it 
gets out of balance. So I desisted 
and tried to raise the Old Man by 
phone. 

The phone would not work. 
Perhaps I had jiggered it in one 
of the spots of exercise I had been 
forced to take. I put it bark, 
feeling that this was one of those 
days when it had not been worth- 
while to get out of bed. I turned 

to the car's communicator and 
punched the emergency tab. 

"Control; 1 I called out. "Con- 
trol!" 

The screen lighted up and I 
was looking at a young man. He 
was, I saw with relief, bare to the 
waist. "Control answering — Block 
Fox Eleven. What are you doing 
in the air? I've been trying to 
raise you ever since you entered 
my block." 

"Never mind! Patch me into 
the nearest military circuit. This 

j 

is crash priority!" 

He looked uncertain, but the 
screen flickered and another pic- 
ture built up, showing a military 




THE PUPPET MASTERS 



133 



message center. That did my 
heart good; everyone in sight was 
stripped to the waist. In the fore- 
ground was a young watch officer. 
I could have kissed him. Instead 
I said, "Military emergency. 
Patch me through the Pentagon 
and there to the White House/' 

"Who are you?" 

"I'm a civil agent and you 
wouldn't recognize my I.D. Hur- 

ry! " 

I might have talked him into it, 
but he was shouldered out of scan 
by a wing commander, "Land at 
once!" was all he said. 

"Look, skipper," I said, "this 
is a military emergency. You've 
got to put me through. I—" 

"This is a military emergency/' 
he interrupted. "Civil craft have 
been grounded the past three 
hours. Land at once." 

"But I've got to — " 

"Land or be shot down. We are 
tracking; I am about to launch 
an interceptor to burst a half mile 
ahead of you. Make any maneu- 
ver but landing, and the next will 
burst on." 

"Will you listen, please? I'll 
land, but I've got to get — " He 
switched off. 

' The first burst seemed short of 
a half mile ahead. I landed and 
cracked up, but without hurting 
myself or my passenger. 

I did not have long to wait. 
They had me flare-lighted and 
Were swooping down before I had 

^34 



satisfied myself that the boat 
wouldn't move. They took me in 
and I met the wing commander 
personally. He even put my mes- 
sage through after his psych 
squad got through giving me the 
antidote for the sleep test. By 
then it was one-thirteen, zone five 
— and "Schedule Counter Blast" 
had been under way one hour 
and thirteen minutes. 

The Old Man listened to a 
summary, grunted, then told me 
to see him in the morning. 

XIX 

SCHEDULE Counter Blast" 
was something tremendous. 
The parachute drops were made 
just at midnight, Zone Five, on 
over ninety-six hundred commu- 
nication points — newspaper offi- 
ces, block controls, relay stations, 
and so forth. The raiding squads 
were the cream of our skyborne 
forces, plus technicians to put 
each communication point back 
into service. 

Whereupon the President's 
speech was to go out from each 
local station. "Schedule Bare- 
back" would take effect all 
through the infected territory. 
The war would soon be over. 

By twenty -five minutes after 
midnight, reports started coming 
in that such-and-such points were 
secured. A little later there were 
calls for help from other points, 

GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



By one in the morning most of 
the reserves had been committed, 
but the operation seemed to be 
going well — so well that unit com- 
manders were landing and report- 
ing from the ground. 

That was the last anybody ever 
heard of them. 

Zone Fed swallowed up the 

task force as if it had never ex- 
isted — over eleven thousand craft, 
more than a hundred and sixty 
thousand fighting men and tech- 
nicians, seventy-one group com- 
manders and — why go on? The 
United States had received its 
worst military setback since 
Black Sunday. I am not criticiz- 
ing Martinez, Rexton, and the 
General Staff, nor those poor 
devils who made the drop. The 
program was based on what ap^ 
peared to be a true picture, and 
the situation called for fast action 
with the best we had. 

It was nearly daylight, so I un- 
derstand , before Martinez and 
Rexton got it through their Beads 
that the messages they had gotten 
back about successes were actu- 
ally fakes sent by their own men 
— our own men — but hag-ridden, 
possessed, inducted by the enemy. 
After my report, more than an 
hour too late to stop the raids, the 
Old Man had tried to get them 
not to send in any more men, but 
they were flushed with success 
and anxious to make a clean 
sweep. 



The Old Man asked the Presi- 
dent to insist on visual checks, 
but the operation was being con- 
trolled by relay through Space 
Station Alpha and there just 
aren't enough channels to paral- 
lel audio with video through a 
space station. Rexton had said, 
"Quit worrying. As fast as we get 
local stations back in our hands, 
our boys will patch into the 
ground relay net and you will 
have all the visual evidence you 
want." 

The Old Man had pointed out 
that by then it would be too late. 
Rexton had burst out, "Confound 
it, man! Do you want a thousand 
men to be killed just to quiet 
your jitters?" 

The President backed up Rex- 
ton. 

By morning they had their vis- 
ual evidence. Stations in the cen- 
tral valley were giving out with the 
same old Rise and Shine with 
Mary Sunshine, Breakfast with 
the Browns, and such junk. There 
was not a station with the Presi- 
dent's stereocast, not one that 
conceded that anything had hap- 
pened. The military despatches 
tapered off around four o'clock 
and Rexton's frantic calls were 
not answered. 

Task Force Redemption ceased 
to exist — spvrlos versenAf. 









i 



DID not get to see the Old 
Man until nearly eleven the 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



13* 



\£Kt morning. He let me report 
without comment, and without 
>awling me out, which was worse. 

He was about to dismiss me 
vhen I put in, "How about my 
>risoner? Didn't lie confirm my 
onclusions?" 

"Oh, him? Still unconscious. 
They don't expect him to live." 

"I'd like to see him/' 

"You stick to things you under- 
stand." 

"Well, have you got something 
'or me to do?" 

"I think you had better — No, 
*:rot down to the Zoo. You'll see 
:hings that put a different light 
on what you picked up in Kansas 
City." 

"Huh?" 

"Look up Doctor Morris, the 

assistant director. Tell him I sent 
you." 

Morris was a nice little guy 
who looked like one of his own 
baboons; he turned me over to a 
Doctor Vargas who was a spe- 
cialist in exotic biologies — the 
same Vargas who was on the 
Second Venus Expedition. He 
showed me what had happened. 
If the Old Man and I had gone 
to the National Zoological Gar- 
dens instead of sitting around in 
the park, it would not have been 
necessary for me to go to Kansas 
City. The ten titans we had cap- 
tured in Congress, plus two the 
next day, had been sent to the Zoo 

to be placed on anthropoids- 



chimps and orangutans, mostly. 
None were on gorillas. 

The Director had had the apes 
locked up in the Zoo's hospital. 
Two chimpanzees, Abelard and 
Heloise, were caged together; they 
had always been mates and there 
seemed no reason to separate 
them. That sums up our psycho- 
logical difficulty in dealing with 
the titans. Even the men who 
transplanted the slugs still 
thought of the result as apes, 
rather than as titans. 

The next treatment cage held a 
family of tuberculous gibbons. 
They were not used as hosts, 
since they were sick, and there 
was no communication between 
cages. They were shut one from 

another by sliding panels and 

each cage had its own air-con- 
ditioning. The next morning the 
panel had been slid back and the 
gibbons and the chimps were to- 
gether. Abelard or Heloise had 
found some way to pick the lock. 
The lock was supposed to be 
monkey proof, but it was not ape- 
cum -titan proof. 

Five gibbons, plus two chimps, 
plus two titans — but the next 
morning there were seven apes 
ridden by seven titans. 

This was discovered while I 
was leaving for Kansas City, not 
enough time for the Old Man to 
have been notified. Had there 
been, he would have known that 
Kansas City was saturated and 



«* 



GAIAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



"Schedule Counter Blast*' would 
not have taken place. 

"I saw the President's broad- 
cast," Dr. Vargas said to me. 
"Weren't you the man who — I 
mean, weren't you the — " 

"Yes, I was the man who," I 
agreed shortly. 

"Then you can tell us a great 
deal about these phenomena.*' 

"Perhaps I should be able to/' 
I admitted, "but I can't." 

"Do you mean that no cases of 
fission reproduction took place 
while you were — uh — their pris- 
oner?" 

"That's right." I thought about 
it. "At least I think that's right." 

"I was given to understand that 
victims have full memory of their 
experiences." 

"Well, they do and they don't." 
I tried to explain the odd de- 
tached frame of mind of a ser- 
vant of the masters. 

"I suppose it could happen 
while you sleep," he said. 

"Maybe. Besides sleep, there is 
another time, or rather times, 
which are difficult to remember. 
During conference." 

"Conference?" When I ex- 
plained, his eyes lit up. "Oh, you 
mean conjugation." 

"No, I mean conference." 

"We mean the same thing. 
Don't you see? Conjugation and 
fission — they reproduce at will, 
whenever the supply of hosts per- 
mits. Probably one contact for 



each fission: then, when oppor- 
tunity exists, fission. Two adult 
daughter parasites in a matter of 
hours. Less, possibly/' 

If that were true — and, looking 
at the gibbons, I could not doubt 
it— then why had we depended 
on shipments at the Constitution 
Club? Or had we? I did not 
know; I did what my master 
wanted done and saw only what 
came under my eyes. But it was 
clear how Kansas City had been 
saturated. With plenty of "live 
stock" at hand and a spaceship 
loaded with transit cells to draw 
from, the titans had reproduced 
to match the human population. 

Assume a thousand slugs in 
that spaceship, the one we be- 
lieved to have landed near Kan- 
sas City; suppose that they could 
reproduce every twenty - four 
hours, when given opportunity. 

First day, one thousand slugs. 

Second day, two thousand. 

Third day, four thousand. 

At the end of the first week^ 
the eighth day. that is — a htm* 
dred and twenty -eight thousand 
sltigs! 

After two weeks, more than six- 
teen million slugs! 

But we did not know that they 
were limited to spawning once a 
day. Nor did we know that a 
Flying Saucer could lift only a 
thousand transit cells. It might 
be ten thousand or more or less. 
Assume ten thousand as breed- 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



137 



ing stock with fission every twelve 
hours. In two weeks the answer 
comes out 

MORE THAN TWO AND A HALF 
TRILLION ! 

The figure did not mean any- 
thing; it was cosmic. 

I felt worse than I had in 
Kansas City. 

DR. Vargas introduced me to 
a Dr. Mcllvaine of the 
Smithsonian Institution. Mcll- 
vaine was a comparative psy- 
chologist, the author, so Vargas 
told me, of Mars, Venus, and 
Earth: A Study in Motivating 
Purposes. Vargas seemed to ex- 
pect me to be impressed, but I 
had not read it. Anyhow, how 
can anyone study the motives of 
Martians when they were all dead 
before we climbed down out of 
trees? 

Mcllvaine asked me, "Mr. 
Nivens, how long does a confer- 
ence last?" 

"Conjugation," Vargas correct- 
ed him. 

"Conference," Mcllvaine re- 
peated. "It's the more important 
aspect." 

"But, Doctor," Vargas insisted, 
"conjugation is the means of gene 
exchange whereby mutation is 
spread through — " 

"Anthropocentricism, Doctor! 
You do not know that this life 
form has genes." 

Vargas turned red. "You will 



allow me gene equivalents?" he 
said stiffly. 

"Why should I? You are rea- 
soning by uncertain analogy. 
There is only one characteristic 
common to all life forms and that 
is the drive to survive." 

"And to reproduce/' insisted 
Vargas. 

"Suppose the organism is im- 
mortal and has no need to re- 
produce?" 

Vargas shrugged. "We know 
that they reproduce." He ges- 
tured at the apes. 

"And I am suggesting," Mcll- 
vaine came back, "that this is 
not reproduction, but a single 
organism availing itself of more 
space. No, Doctor, it is possible 
to get so immersed in the idea of 
the zygote-gamcte cycle that one 

forgets there may be other pat- 
terns." 

"But throughout the Solar Sys- 
tem—" 

Mcllvaine cut him short. "An- 
thropocentric, telocentric, solo- 
centric — it is a provincial ap- 
proach. These creatures may be 
from outside the Solar System 
entirely." 

I said, "Oh, no!" I had a sud- 
den flash picture of the planet 
Titan and with it a choking sen- 
sation. 

Neither one noticed. Mcllvaine 
continued, "Take the ameba — a 
more basic and much more suc- 
cessful life form than ours. The 



134 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



motivational psychology of the 
ameba — " 

I switched ofF my ears; free 
speech gives a man the right to 
talk about the "psychology" of 
an ameba, but I don't have to 
listen. 

They did some direct experi- 
mentation which restored my in- 
terest. Vargas had a baboon wear- 
ing a slug placed in the cage with 
the gibbons and chimps. As soon 
as the newcomer was dumped in t 
they gathered in a ring facing out- 
ward and went into direct con- 
ference, slug to slug. 

Mcllvaine jabbed his finger at 
them. "You see? Conference is not 
for reproduction, but for exchange 
of memory. The organism, tem- 
porarily divided, has now re- 
identified itself." 

I could have told him the same 
thing without the double talk. A 
master who has been out of touch 
always gets into direct conference 
as soon as possible. 

"Hypothecation!" Vargas snort- 
ed. "They have no opportunity to 
reproduce just now.*' He ordered 
the boss of the handling crew to 
bring in another ape. 

"Little Abe?" asked the crew 
boss. 

"No, I want one without a 
parasite. Let me see — make it 
Old Red." 

The crew boss said, "Gripes, 
Doc, don't pick on Old Red." 
"This won't hurt him." 



"How about Satan? He's a 
mean bastard anyway." 

"All right, but hurry it up." 
So they brought in Satan, a 
coal-black chimp. He may have 
been aggressive elsewhere; he was 
not so here. When they dumped 
him inside, he shrank back 
against the door and began to 
whine. It was like watching an 
execution. I had had my nerves 

under control — a man can get 
used to anything — but the ape's 
hysteria was contagious. I want- 
ed to run. 

At first the hag-ridden apes 
simply stared at him like a jury. 
This went on for a long while, 
Satan's whines changed to low 
moans and he covered his face. 
Presently Vargas said, "Doctor! 
Look!" 

"Where?" 

"Lucy, the old female. There.** 
He pointed. 

It was the matriarch of con- 
sumptive gibbons. Her back was 
toward us; the slug thereon had 
humped itself together. An iri- 
descent line ran down the center 
of it 

It began to split as an egg splits* 
In a few minutes only, the divi- 
sion was complete. One new slug 
centered itself over her spine; the 
other flowed down her back as 
she squatted almost to the floor. 
It slithered off, plopped gently on 
the concrete and crept slowly to- 
ward Satan. The ape screamed 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



,13> 



hoarsely and swarmed up into the 
top of the cage . 

So help me, the slugs sent a 
squad to arrest him — two gib- 
bons, a chimp, and the baboon. 
They tore him loose and held him 
face- down on the floor. 

The slug slithered closer. 

It was a good two feet away 
when it grew a pseudopod — slow- 
ly, at first, a stalk that weaved 
©round like a cobra. Then it 
lashed out and struck the ape on 
b foot. The others promptly let 
go, but Satan did not move. 

The titan seemed to pull itself 



in by the extension it had formed 
and attached itself to Satan's 
foot From there it crawled up. 
When it reached the base of his 
spine, Satan sat erect. He shook 
himself and joined the others. 

Vargas and Mcllvaine started 
talking excitedly, apparently un- 
moved. I wanted to smash some- 
thing — for me, for Satan. 

Mcllvaine maintained that we 
were seeing something new to our 
concepts, an intelligent creature 
so organized as to be immortal 
and continuous in its personal 
identity — or its group identity. 




?40 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



He theorized that it would have 
continuous memory back to its 
racial beginning. He described the 
slugs as a four-dimensional worm 
in space-time, inter-twined as a 
single organism, and the talk grew 
too technical for me to follow. 

I did not follow and did not 
care. The only way I cared about 
slugs was to kill them. 



FOR a wonder, when I got back 
the Old Man was available — 
the President had left to address 




THE PUPPET MAST ERS 



14? 



a secret session of the United Na- 
tions. I told the Old Man what I 
had seen and added my opinion 
of Vargas and Mcllvaine. "Boy 
Scouts," I complained, "compar- 
ing stamp collections. They don't 

realize it's serious." . 

The Old Man shook his head, 
"Don't sell them short, son" he 
advised me. "They are more likely 
to come up with the answer than 
are you and I." 

"They're more likely to let 
those slugs escape." 

"Did they tell you about the 

elephant?" 

"What elephant? They damn 
near didn't tell me anything; they 
got interested in each other and 
ignored me." 

"You don't understand scien- 
tific detachment. About the ele- 
phant: an ape with a rider got 
out, somehow. Its body was found 
trampled to death in the elephant 
house- And one of the elephants 
was gone." 

"You mean there is an elephant 
loose with a slug on him?" I had 
a horrid vision, something like a 
tank on the loose with a cyber- 
netic brain. 

"Her/ 1 the Old Man corrected 
me. "They found her over in 
Maryland, quietly pulling up cab- 
bages. No parasite." 

"Where did the slug get to?" 
Involuntarily I glanced around. 

"A duo was stolen in the ad- 
joining village. I'd say the slug 



is somewhere west of the Missis- 
sippi by now." 

"Anybody missing?" 

He shrugged again. "Jiow can 
you tell in a free country? At 
least, the titan can't hide on a 
human host anywhere short of 
Zone Red." 

His comment made me think 
of something I had seen at the zoo 
and had not reasoned out. What- 
ever it was, it eluded me. The Old 
Man went on, "It's taken drastic 
action to make the bare- shoulders 
order stick, though. The President 
has had protests on moral 
grounds, not to mention the Na- 
tional Association of Haberdash- 
ers." 

"Huh?" 

"You would think we were try- 
ing to sell their daughters down to 
Rio. There was a delegation in, 
called themselves the Mothers of 
the Republic, or some such non- 
sense." 

"The President's time is being 
wasted like that, at a time like 
this?" 

"McDonough handled them. 
But he roped me in on it." The 
Old Man looked pained. "We 
told them that they could not see 
the President unless they strip- 
ped. That stopped 'em." 

The thought that had been 
bothering me came to the surface. 
Say, boss, you might have to. 

"Have to what?" 

"Make people strip/' 



4* 



99 



142 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



He chewed his lip. 'What are 
you driving at?" 

"Do we kn^w, as a certainty, 
that a slug can attach itself only 
near the base of the brain?" 

"You should know." 

"I thought I did, but now I'm 
not sure. That's the way we al- 
ways did it, when I was, uh, with 
them." I recounted in more detail 
what I had seen when Vargas had 
had poor old Satan exposed to a 
slug. "That ape moved as soon as 
the thing reached the base of his 
spine. I'm sure they prefer to ride 
up near the brain. But maybe 
they could ride down inside pants 
or dresses and just put out an ex- 
tension to the end of the spinal 
cord." 

"Hmm . . . you'll remember, 
son, the first time I had a crowd 
searched, I made everybody peel 

to the buff." 

"I think you were justified. 
They might be able to conceal 
themselves anywhere on the body. 
Take those droopy drawers you- 
've got on. One could hide in them 
and it would just make you look 
a bit satchel-fannied." 

"Want me to take 'em off?" 

"I can do better than that; I'll 
give you the Kansas City 
Clutch." My words were joking 
but^I was not; I grabbed at the 
bunchiness of his pants. He sub- 
mitted with good grace; then gave 
me the same treatment. 

"But we can't/' he complained 



as he sat down, '"go around 
clutching women by the rump." 

"You may have to," I pointed 
out, "or make everybody strip." 

"We'll run some experiments.** 

"How?" I asked. 

"You know that head-and- 
spine armor? It's not worth much, 
except to give the wearer a feeling 
of security. I'll tell Doctor Morris 
to take an ape, fit such an armor 
so that a slug can't reach any- 
thing but his legs, say, and see 
what happens. We'll vary the 
areas, too." 

"Uh, yes. But don't use an ape/* 

"Why not?" 

"Well, they're too human.** 

"Damn it, bub, you can't make 
an omelet — " 

" — without breaking eggs. 
Okay, but I don't have to like it.*' 

XXI 

I SPENT the next several days 
lecturir\g to brass, answering 
fool questions about what titans 
ate for lunch, explaining how to 
tackle a man who was possessed. 
I was billed as an "expert," but 
half the time my pupils seemed 
sure they knew more than I did. 
The titans continued to hold 
Zone Red, but they could not 

break out without being spotted 
— we hoped. And we did not try 
to break in again because every 
slug held one of our own people 
as hostage. The United Nations 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



143 



was no help. The President want- 
ed a "Schedule Bareback" on a 
global scale, but they hemmed 
and hawed and sent the matter 
to committee for investigation. 
The truth was they did not be- 
lieve us; that was the enemy's 
great advantage — only the burned 
believed in the fire. 

Some nations were safe because 
of their own customs. A Finn who 
did not climb into a steam bath 
in company every day or so 
would have been conspicuous. 
The Japanese, too, were casual 
about mixed bathing. The South 
Seas were relatively safe, as were 
large parts of Africa. France had 
gone enthusiastically nudist, on 
weekends at least, right after 
World War III — a slug would 
have a tough time hiding. But in 
countries where the body -mod- 
esty taboo meant something, a 
slug could stay hidden until his 
host dropped dead. The United 
States itself, Canada, England— 
particularly England. 

They flew three slugs, with 
apes, to London. I understand 
the King wanted to set art ex- 
ample as the President had, but 
the Prime Minister, egged on by 
the Archbishop of Canterbury, 
would not let him. Nothing about 
this appeared in the news and the 
story may not be true, but English 
skin was not exposed to the cold 

stares of neighbors. 

The Russian propaganda sys- 



tem began to blast us as soon as 
they had worked out a new line. 
The whole thing was an "Ameri- 
can imperialist fantasy." I won- 
dered why the titans had not at- 
tacked Russia first; the place 
seemed tailor-made for them. On 
second thought, I wondered if 
they had. On third thought, I 
wondered what difference it would 
make. 

I did not see the Old Man dur- 
ing this period; I got my assign- 
ments from Oldfield, his deputy. 
Consequently I did not know it 
when Mary was relieved from 
special duty with the President. I 
ran into her in the lounge of the 
Section offices. "Mary!" I yelped. 

She gave me that slow, sweet 
smile and moved over. "Hello, 
darling!" she whispered. She did 
not ask what I had been doing, 

nor scold me that I had not been 
in touch with her, nor even com- 
ment on how long it had been. 
Mary let water over the dam take 
care of itself. 

Not me— I babbled. "This is 
great! I thought you were still 
tucking the President into his 
beddy-bye. How long have you 
been here? When do you have to 
go back? Say, can I dial you a 
drink — no, you've got one." I 
started to dial one for myself; it 
popped out into my hand. "Huh? 
How'd this get here?" 

"I ordered it when you came 
in the door." 



144 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






"Mary, did I tell you that you 
are wonderful?" 

"No/' 

"I will. You're wonderful." 

"Thank you." 

I went on, "Couldn't you get 
some leave? They can't expect 
you to be on duty twenty-four 
hours a day, week after week, 
with no time off. I'm going 
straight to the Old Man and tell 
him—" 

"I'm on leave, Sam." 

" — just what I .think of — You 
are? For how long?" 

"Subject to call. All leaves read 
that way now." 

"How long have you been on 
leave?" 

"Since yesterday. I've been sit- 
ting here, waiting for you." 

" Yesterday!" I had spent yes- 
terday giving kindergarten lec- 
tures to brasshats who did not 
want them. I stood up. "Don't 
move. I'll be right back." 

I rushed over to the operations 
office. Oldfield looked up when I 
came in and said in a surly tone, 
"What do you want?" 

"Chief, that series of bedtime 
stories I'm scheduled to tell — bet- 
ter cancel them/* 

"Why?" 

"I'm a sick man; I've rated 
sick leave for a long time. Now 
I've got to take it." 

"You're sick in the head." 

"Thafs right, I'm sick in the 
head. I hear voices. People have 



been following me around. I keep 
dreaming I'm back with the tit- 
ans." That last point was true. 

"But since when has being 
crazy been any handicap in this 
section?" He waited for me to 
argue the point. 

"Look, do I get leave or don't 
I?" 

He fumbled through papers, 
found one and tore it up. "Okay. 
Keep your phone handy; you're 
subject to recall. Get out." 

I got. Mary looked up when I 
came in and gave me the soft 
warm treatment again. I said, 
"Grab your things. We're leav- 

it 

ing. 

She did not ask where; she 
simply stood up. I snatched my 
drink, gulped some and spilled 
the rest. We were up on the 
pedestrian level of the city before 
we spoke. Then I asked, "Where 
do you want to get mnrried?" 

"Sam, we discussed that be- 
fore." 

"Sure we did and now wc are 
going to do it. Where?" 

"Sam, my very dear, I will do 
what you say. But I am still op* 
posed to it." 

"Why?" 

"Let's go to my apartment. I'd 
like to cook dinner for you." 

"Okay, you can cook dinner— 
but nof there. And we get married 
first." 

"Please, Sam!" 

Somebody said, "Keep pitch- 



THE PUPPET MASTER S 



M* 



ing, kid. She's weakening." I 
looked around and found that we 
were playing to a gallery. 

I swept an arm wide and shout- 
ed irritably, "Haven't you people 
got anything to do? Go get 
drunk r 

Somebody else said, 'Td say 
he ought to take her offer." 

I grabbed Mary's arm and did 
not say another word until I had 
gotten her into a cab. "All right/* 
I said gruffly, "let's have your 
reasons." 

"I'm yours; you don't need a 
contract, so why get married, 
Sam?" 

"Why? Because I love you, 
damn it!" 

She did not answer for quite a 
while. I thought I had offended 
her. When she did, I could hardly 
hear her. "You hadn't mentioned 
that before, Sam." 

"Hadn't I? Oh, I must have." 

"No, I'm quite sure you have- 
n't. Why didn't you?" 

"An oversight, I gueps. I'm not 
sure I know what the word 'love* 
means." 

"Neither am I," she said softly, 
"but I love to hear you say it. Say 
it again, please." 

"Huh? Okay. I love you. I 
love you, Mary." 

"Oh, Sam!" 

She snuggled against me and 
began to tremble. I shook her a 
little. "How about you?" 

Me? Oh, I do love you, Sam. 



*« 



I've loved you ever since — " 

"Ever since what?" 

I expected her 1o say that she 
had loved me ever since I took 
her place in "Project Interview." 
What she said was, "I've loved 
you ever since you slapped me." 

Now, is that logic? 

The driver was cruising slowly 
along the Connecticut coast; I 

id to wake him before I could 
get him to land in Westport. We 
went to the city hall. I stepped up 
to a counter in the bureau of 
sanctions and licenses and said to 
a clerk, "Is this where we get 
married?" 

"That's up to you," he an- 
swered. "Hunting licenses on the 
left, dog licenses on the right, this 
is the happy medium." 

"Good," I said stiffly. "Will you 
oblige by issuing a license?" 

"Sure. Everybody ought to get 
married at least once; that's what 
I tell my old lady." He got out a 
form. "Let's have your serial 
numbers." We gave them to him. 
"Either of you married in any 
other state?" We said we weren't 
"You're sure? If you don't tell 
me, so I can put on a rider show- 
ing other contracts, this contract 
ain't valid." 

We told him again that we 
weren't married anywhere. He 
went on, "Term, renewable, or 
lifetime? If it's over ten years, the 
fee is the same as for lifetime. If 
it's under six months, you get the 



14* 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTIO 



short form from that vendo ma- 
chine over there." 

Mary said in a small voice, 
"Lifetime." 

The clerk looked surprised. 
"The renewable contract, with the 
automatic option clause, is just 
as permanent, and you don f t have 
to go through the courts if you 
change your mind." 

I said, "You heard the lady!" 

"Okay, okay. Either party, mu- 
tual consent, or binding?" 

"Binding," I answered, and 
Mary nodded. 

"Bind ing it is," he agreed, 
bending over the typer. "Now the 
meat of the matter: who pays and 
how much? Salary or endow- 
ment?" 

I said, "Salary." I didn't own 

enough to set up a fund. 

"Neither," Mary stated. "This 
is not a financial contract." 

The clerk stopped completely. 
"Lady, don't be foolish," he said 
reasonably. "You heard the gen- 
tleman say he was willing to do 
the right thing." 

"No." 

"Hadn't you better talk with 
your lawyer before you go ahead? 
There's a public communicator 

in the hall." 

"Nor 

"Well, I'm darned if I see what 
you need a license for." 

"Neither do I," Mary told him. 

"You mean you don't want 
this?" 



"No! Put it down the way I 
told you to. No salary." 

The clerk looked helpless but 
bent over the typer. "I guess 
that's all," he said finally. "You- 
've kept it simple, I'll say that. 
*Do - you - both - solemnly - swear - 
that-the-above-facts-are-true-to- 
the-best-of-your-knowledge-and- 
belief-that-you-are-entering-into- 
this -agreement -uninfluenced -by- 
drugs - or - other - illegal - induce - 
ments - and - that -there -exists - no - 
undisclosed - covenants - nor-other- 
legal - impediments -to - the -execu- 
tion - and - registration - of - the - 
above-contract?" 

We both said that we did and 
we were and it was and there 
weren't. He pulled it out of the 

typer. "Let's have your thumb 

prints. Okay, that'll be ten dol- 
lars, including federal tax." I paid 

him and he shoved the form into 
the copier and threw the switch. 
"Copies will be mailed to you/* 
he announced, "at your serial- 
number addresses. Now, what 
type of cefemony are you look- 
ing for? Maybe I can help." 

"As quick, plain and cheap as 
it can be," Mary told him. 

"Then I've got just what you 
want. Old Doctor Chamleigh. 
Non-sectarian, best stereo accom- 
paniment in town, all four walls 
and full orchestra. He gives you 
the works, fertility rites and 
everything, but dignified. And he 
tops it off with a fatherly straight- 



THE PUPPET MASTE RS 



147 



from-the-shoulder word of advice. 
Makes you feel married " 

"No." This time I said it; 

"Come on!" the clerk said to 
me. "Think of the little lady. If 
she sticks by what she just swore 
to, she'll never have another 
chance. Every girl is entitled to a 
formal wedding. Honest, I don't 
get much of a commission." 

I said, "You can marry us, 
can't you? Go ahead. Get it over 
with!" 

He blinked at me. "Didn't you 
know? In this state you marry 
yourself. You've been married, 
ever since you thumbprinted the 
license." 

I said, "Oh." Mary didn't say 
anything. We left. 

I hired a duo at the landing 
flat north of town; the heap was 
ten years old, but it had full- 
automatic and that was all that 
mattered. I looped around the 
City, cut across Manhattan Cra- 
ter, and set the controls. I was 
happy though nervous — and then 
Mary put her arms around me. 
After a long time I heard the 

beeeep! beep-beep beeeep! of the 
beacon at my shack, whereupon 
I unwound myself and landed- 
Mary said sleepily, "Where are 
we?" 

"At my cabin in the moun- 
tains," I told her. 

"I didn't know you had a cabin 
in the mountains. I thought you 
were headed for my apartment/' 



"What, and risk those bear 
traps? Anyhow, it's not mine; it's 



ours. 



»» 



She kissed me again, which 
made me kind of louse up the 
landing. She slid out ahead of me 
while I was securing the board; I 
found her staring at the shack. 
"Sweetheart, it's beautiful!" 

"You can't beat the Adiron- 
dacks," I agreed. There was a 
slight haze with the sun low in 
the west, giving that wonderful 
depth-upon-depth stereo look. 

She glanced at it and said, 
"Yes, but I didn't mean that. I 
meant your — our — cabin. Let's 
go inside right now." 

"Suits," I agreed, "but it's real- 
ly just a simple shack." Which it 
was. Not even an indoor pool. 
When 1 came up here, I didn't 
want to feel that I had brought 
the city with me. The shell was 
conventional steel and fiberglass, 
but I had had it veneered in duro- 
slabs which looked like real logs. 
The inside was just as simple — a 
big living room with a real fire- 
place, deep rugs and plenty of 
low chairs. The services were in 
a Kompacto special, buried under 
the foundation — air-conditioner, 
power pack, cleansing system, 
sound equipment, plumbing, radi- 
ation alarm, servos — everything 
but deep-freeze and the other kit- 
chen equipment, out of sight and 
mind. Even the stereo screens 
would not be noticed unless in 



148 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



use. It was about as near as a man 
could get to a real log cabin and 
still have a little comfort. 

"J think it's lovely/' Mary said 
seriously. "I wouldn't want an 

ostentatious place." 

"You and me both." I worked 
the combo and the door dilated; 
Mary was inside at once. "Hey! 
Come back!" I yelled. 

She did, looking puzzled. 
"What's the matter, Sam? Did I 
do something wrong?" 

"You sure did." I swung her 
up in my arms and carried her 
across the threshold, kissing her 
as I put her down. "There. Now 
you are in your own house, prop- 
erly/' 

The lights, of course, came on 

automatically as we entered. She 

looked around, then turned and 
threw her arms around my neck. 
"Oh, darling, darling!" 

We took time out. Then she 
started wandering around, touch- 
ing things. "Sam, if I had planned 
it myself, it would have been just 
this way." 

"It has only one bathroom," I 
apologized. "We'll have to rough 
it." 

"I don't mind. I'm glad; now 
I know you didn't bring any of 
those women of yours up here." 

"What women?" 

"You know darn well. If you 
had been planning this as a nest, 
you would have included a pow- 
der room." 



"You know too much.** 

She did not answer but wan- 
dered out into the kitchen. I 
heard her squeal. 

"What's the matter?" I asked. 

"I never expected to find a real 
kitchen in a bachelor's lodge." 
j "I'm not a bad cook. I wanted 
a kitchen, so I bought one." 

"I'm glad. Now I will cook you 
dinner." 

"It's your kitchen; suit your- 
self. But don't you want to wash 
up? You can have first crack at 
the shower. Tomorrow we'll get 
a catalog and you can pick out 
a bathroom of your own. We'll 
have it flown in." 

"You take first shower," she 
said. "I want to start dinner." 

"M/JARY and I slipped into do- 
■*■*-* mesticity as if we had been 
married for years. Oh, not that 
our honeymoon was humdrum, or 
that there weren't a thousand 

things we still had to learn about 
each other — the point was that 
we already seemed to know the 
necessary things about each other 
that made us married. Especially 
Mary. 

I don't remember those days 
too clearly. I was happy; I had 
forgotten what it was like, had 

not known that I was not happy. 
Interested, I used to be — di- 
verted, entertained, amused — but 
not happy. 

We did not turn on a stereo or 



THE PUPPET MASTERS 



149 



1 



I 



fead a book, we saw no one and 
spoke to no one, except that on 
the second day we walked down 
to the village; I wanted to show 
Mary off. On the way back we 
passed the shack of John the 
Goat, our local hermit. John did. 
what little caret aking I required. 
Seeing him, I waved- He waved 
back. He was dressed as usual, 
stocking cap, an old army blouse, 
shorts, and sandals. I thought of 
warning him about the bare- 
to-the-waist order, but decided 
against it. Instead I cupped my 
hands and shouted, "Send up the 
Pirate!" 

"Who's the Pirate, darling?" 
"You'll see." 

As soon as we got back, the 
Pirate came in, for I had his little 
door keyed to his own tneeow—- 
the Pirate being a large and rak- 
ish tomcat. He strutted in, told 
me what he thought of people 
who stayed away so long, then 
head-bumped my ankle in for- 
giveness. After I roughed him up, 
he inspected Mary. She dropped 
to her knees and made the sounds 
used by people who understand 
cat protocol, but the Pirate 
* looked her over suspiciously. Sud- 
denly he jumped into her arms 
and commenced to buzz, while 
bumping her under the chin. 

"That's a relief," I announced. 
"For a moment I didn't think I 
was going to be allowed to keep 
you/' 



Mary looked up and smiled. 
"You need not have worried. I'm 
two-thirds cat myself." 

"What's the other third?" 

"You'll find out." 

From then on the cat was with 
us — or with Mary — almost all the 
time, except when I shut him out 
of our bedroom. That I would 
not stand for, though both Mary 
and the Pirate thought it small 
of me. 

MARY never borrowed trouble. 
She did not like digging into 
the past. She would let me talk 
about mine, but not about her 
own. Once when I started quiz- 
zing her, she changed the subject 
saying, "Let's look at the sunset." 

"Sunset?" I repeated. "Can't 
be. We just finished breakfast." 
The mixup about the time of day 
jerked me back to reality. "Mary, 
how long have we been up here?" 

"Does it matter?" 

"You bet it matters. It's been 
more than a week, I'm sure. One 
of these days our phones will 
start screaming and then it's back 
to the treadmill." 

"In the meantime, what differ- 
ence does it make?" 

I still wanted to know what day 
it was. I could have found out 
by switching on a stereo, but I 
would probably have bumped in- 
to a newscast and I did not want 
that. I was still pretending that 
Mary and I were away in a dif- 



150 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



Going... Going... 

The demand for back numbers of GALAXY Science Fiction 
has been so great that October 1950 is completely out of 
stock, and November and December 1950 and January 1951 
are very low. From February 1951 to the present issue, we 
have a fair supply . . . and we'll continue to sell at the regu- 
lar newsstand price of 35c a copy (no postage or handling 
charge) until they are gone. 

Repeat: Vol. 1, No. 1, October 1950, is completely out of 
stock. Please don't ask for it, because we have no copies. 

We are calling in larger quantities than usual of August 
1951, which, for reasons over which we had no control, was 
withdrawn from sale prematurely. This is the issue with 
BEYOND BEDLAM by Wyman Guin, the brilliant and enor- 
mously moving novella that has caused more dazzled com- 
ment than any single story in years. You'll want it . . . and 
there's a copy for you, if you don't put off too long. 

All our GALAXY Science Fiction Novels are available: 

SINISTER BARRIER by Eric Frank Russell . . . a powerful story of on 
incredible invasion of Earth. 

THE LEGION OF SPACE by Jack Wi/fiamson . . . a science fiction classic 
packed with action and suspense. 

PRELUDE TO SPACE by Arthur C. Clarke ... a solid account, minus 
melodrama, of the conquest of interplanetary flight. 

THE AMPHIBIANS by S. Fow/er Wright ... a genuinely fascinating 
exploration of Earth's unthinkobly distance future. 

THE WORLD BELOW by S. Fow/er Wright . . . sequel to THE AMPHIBIANS 
and no less hypnotic in effect. 

THE ALIEN by Raymond F. Jones . . , the astonishing, frightening result 
of reviving an extraterrestrial genius 500,000 year* old. 



Send only 35c for each copy to « 



* * 



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421 Hudson Street New York 14, N. Y. 



THE PUPPET MA STERS 



151 



ferent world, where titans did 

not exist. 

"Mary," I said fretfully, "how 
many tempus pills have you?" 

"None." 

"Well, I've got enough for us 
both, I suppose. Suppose we have 
just twenty-four more hours; we 
could stretch it out to a month, 
subjective time." 

"No." 

"Why not? Let's carpe that old 
diem" 

She put a hand on my arm and 
looked up into my eyes. "No, 
darling, if s not for me. I must 
live each moment and not let it 
be spoiled by worrying about the 
moment ahead." I looked stub- 
born. She went on, "If you want 
to take them, I won't mind, but 
please don't ask me to." 

"Confound it, I'm not going on 
a joy ride alone." She did not 
answer, which is the damnedest 
way of winning an argument. 

Not that we argued. If I tried 
to start one, Mary would give 
in and somehow it would work 
out that I was mistaken. I did 

try several times to find out more 
about her; it seemed to me that I 
ought to know something about 
the woman I was married to. To 
one question she looked thought- 
ful and answered, "I sometimes 

wonder .whether I ever did >aVe 
a childhood — or was it something 

- 

I dreamed last night?" 

I asked her pointblank what 



her name was. "Mary," she said 

tranquilly. 

1 "Mary really is your name?" 

I had long since told her my right 

name, but we went on using Sam. 

"Certainly it's my name, dear. 
I've been Mary since you first 
called me that." 

"Oh. All right, you are my be- 
loved Mary. But what was your 
name before?" 

Her eyes held an odd, hurt 
look, but she answered steadily, 
"I was once known Allucquere." 

"Allucquere," I repeated, sa- 
voring it. "What a strange and 
beautiful name. My darling Al- 
lucquere." 

"My name is Mary now." And 
that was that. 

Somewhere, somewhen, I was 
convinced, Mary had been hurt, 
badly hurt. But it seemed un- 
likely that I was ever going to 
know about it. Presently I ceased 
to worry about it. She was what 
she was, and I was content to 
bask in the warm light of her 
presence. 

I WENT on calling her Mary, 
but the name that she had 
once kept running through my 
mind, I wondered how it was 

spelled. ' 

Then suddenly I knew. My 
pesky p&ckrat memory was paw- 
ing away at the shelves in the 
back of my mind where I keep 
the useless junk that I am unable 



m 



GALAXY SCIENCE FlCTlO 



to get rid of- There had been a 
community, a colony that used 
an artificial language, even to 
given names — 

The Whitmanites, that was it. 
The anarchist-pacifist cult that 
got kicked out of Canada, then 
failed to make a go of it in Little 
America. There was a book writ- 
ten by their prophet, The En- 
tropy of Joy; it was full of 
pseudo - mathematical formulas 
for achieving happiness. 

Everybody is for "happiness," 
just as they are against "sin," but 
the cult's practices got them in 
hot water. They had a curious 



and very ancient solution to their 
sexual problems, a solution which 
produced explosive results when 
the Whitmanite culture touched 
any other pattern of behavior. 
Even Little America had not been 
far enough away. I had heard 
somewhere that the remnants had 
emigrated to Venus — in which 
case they must all be dead by 
this time. 

I put it out of my mind. If 
Mary were a Whitmanite, or had 
been reared that way, that was 
her business. I certainly was not 
going to let the cult's philosophy 
cause us a crisis now or ever; 




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THE PUPPET MASTERS 



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marriage is not ownership and 
wives are not property. 

XXII 

THE next time I mentioned 
tempus pills, she did not ar- 
gue but suggested that we hold 
it down to a minimum dose. It 
was a fair compromise — we could 
always take more. 

I prepared it as injections so 

that it would take hold faster. 
Ordinarily I watch a clock after 
I've taken tempus; when the sec- 
ond hand slows to a stop, I know 
I'm loaded. But my shack has no 
clocks and neither of us was both- 
ering with ringwatches. It was 
sunrise and we had been awake 
all night, cuddled up on a big 
low couch by the fireplace. 

We continued to lie there, feel- 
ing good and dreamy, and I was 
considering the idea that the drug 
had not worked. Then I realized 
that the sun had stopped rising. 
I watched a bird fluttering past 
the window. If I stared at him 
long enough, I could see his wings 
move. 

I looked back from it to my 
wife. The Pirate was curled up 
on her stomach, his paws tucked 
in as a muff. They seemed asleep. 
**How about breakfast?" I said. 
4 Tm starved/' 

"You get it," she answered. "If 
I move, I'll disturb Pirate." 

44 You promised to love, honor, 



and fix me breakfast," I replied 
and tickled her feet. She gasped 
and drew up her legs; the cat 
squawked and landed on the floor. 

"Oh, dear!" she said. "You 
made me move too fast." 

"Never mind the cat, woman; 
you're married to me." Er.t I 
knew that I had made a mistake. 
In the presence of people not un- 
der the drug, one should move 
with great care. I simply hadn't 
thought about the cat; no doubt 
he thought we were behaving like 
drunken jumping jacks. I inten- 
tionally slowed down and tried 
to woo him. 

No use — he was streaking to- 
ward his door. I could have stop- 
ped him, for to me his movement 
was a molasses crawl, but had I 
done so I would have frightened 
him more. I let him go. 

Do you know, Mary was right? 
Tempus-fugit drug is no good for 
honeymoons. The ecstatic happi- 
ness I had felt before was masked 
by the euphoria of the drug. I 
had substituted a chemical fake 
for the true magic. Nevertheless 
it was a good day — or month. But 

i 

I wished that I had stuck to the 
real thing. 

Late that evening we came out 
of it. I felt the slight irritability 
which marks the loosening hold 
of the drug, found my ringwatch 
and timed my reflexes. When they 
were back to normal I timed 
Mary's, whereupon she informed 



154 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



me that she had been out of it 
for twenty minutes or so — putty 
accurate matching of dosage. 

"Do you want to go under 
again?" she asked. 

I kissed her. "No. Frankly, I'm 
glad to be back." 

•Ton so glad." 

I had the usual ravenous ap- 
petite that one has afterward; 
I mentioned it. "In a minute/' she 
said. "1 want to call Pirate." 

I had not missed him; the 
euphoria is like that. "Don't wor- 
ry," I told her. "He often stays 
out all day." 

He never has before." 

He has with me," I answered. 



tr 



" 



*'I think I offended him. I know 
I did." 

"He's probably down at Old 
John's. That's his usual way of 
punishing me. Hell be all right." 

"But it T s late at night— I'm 
afraid a fox might get him. Do 
you mind, darling? HI just step 
out and call him." She headed for 
the door. 

"Put something on," I sug- 
gested. "It will be nippy out." 

She went back to the bedroom 
and got a negligee I had bought 
for her the day we had gone to 
the village. She went out- I put 
wood on the fire and ambled into 
the kitchen. While 1 was trying 




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THE PUPPET MASTER S 



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to make up my mind about a 
menu, I heard her saying, "Bad, 
bad cat, you worried mama," in 
that cooing voice suitable for ba- 
bies and house animals. 

I called out, "Fetch him in and 
close the door — and mind the 
penguins!'* She did not answer 
and I did not hear the door relax, 
so I went back into the living 
room. She was just coming in 
and did not have the cat with 
her. I started to speak and then 
caught sight of her eyes. They 
were staring, filled with unspeak- 
able horror. 

I said, "Mary!" and started to- 
ward her. She seemed to see me 
and turned back toward the door; 
her movements were jerky, spas- 
modic. Then I saw her shoulders. 
Under the negligee was a hump. 
I don't know how long I stood 
there. Probably a split second, 
but it is burned into me as end- 
less. I jumped and grabbed her 
by the arms. She looked at me 
and her eyes were no longer wells 
of horror but merely dead. 
She gave me the knee. 
I squeezed and managed to 
avoid the worst of it. Look, you 
don't tackle a dangerous oppo- 
nent by grabbing his arms, but 
this was my wife. I couldn't come 
at Mary with a feint-shift-and- 
kill. 

But the slug had no compunc- 
tions about me. Mary — or tt— * 
was p' -'-^ me everything she 



had. and I had all I could do 
to keep from killing her. I had 
to keep her from killing me — 
and I had to kill the slug — and I 
had to keep the slug from get- 
ting at me or I would not be 
able to save her. 




© 



156 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



I let go with one hand and 
jabbed her chin. The blow did 
not even slow her down. I grabbed 
again, with both arms and legs, 
trying to encase her in a bear 

hug to immobilize her without 
injuring her. We went down, 



Mary on top. I shoved my head 
under her chin to stop her from 
biting me. 

Curbing her strong body by 
sheer muscle, I tried to paralyze 
her with nerve pressure, but she 
knew the key spots as well as I 




THE PUPPET MASTERS 



T*7 



did. I was lucky that I was not 
myself paralyzed. 

There was one thing left that 
I could do: clutch the slug. But 
I knew the shattering effect that 
had on the host. It might kill 
her; it was sure to hurt her hor- 
ribly. I wanted to make her un- 
conscious, then remove the slug 
gently before I killed it . ♦ . drive 
it off with heat or force it to 
turn loose with mild shocks. 
Drive it off with heat — 
I was given no time to develop 

the idea; she got her teeth in 
my ear. I shifted my right arm 
and grabbed at the slug. 

NOTHING happened. Instead 
of my fingers sinking into it, 
I found that this slug had a leath- 
ery covering. It was as if I had 
clutched a football! Mary jerked 
when I touched it and took away 
part of my ear, but there was no 
bone-crushing spasm; the slug 
was still alive and in control. 

I tried to get my fingers under 
it It clung like a suction cup. 
My fingers would not go under. 

In the meantime I was suffer- 
ing damages in other places. I 
rolled over and got to my knees, 
still hugging her. I had to let her 
legs free and that was bad, but 
I bent her across a hip and strug.- 
gled to my feet. 

I dragged and carried her to 
the fireplace. k > 

She almost got away from me; 



it was like wrestling a mountain 
lion. But I got her there, grabbed 
her mop of hair and slowly forced 
her shoulders over the fire. 

I meant only to singe the slug, 
force it to drop off to escape that 
heat. But she struggled so hard 
that I slipped, banging my own 
head against the arch of the 
opening and dropping her shoul- 
ders against the coals. 

She screamed and bounded out 
of the fire, carrying me with her. 
I struggled to my feet, still dazed 
by the wallop, and saw her col- 
lapsed on the floor. Her beautiful 
hair and her negligee were burn- 
ing! 

I slapped at them both with 
my hands. The slug was no longer 

on her. Still crushing the flames 
with my hands, I glanced around 
and saw it lying on the floor by 
the fireplace — and the Pirate was 
sniffing at it. 

"Get away from there!" I 
yelled. "Pirate! Stop that!" 

The cat looked up inquiringly. 
I went on making certain that the 
fire was out. When I was sure, I 
left her; there was not even time 
to see if she was still alive. What 

I wanted was the fireplace shovel; 
I did not dare risk touching the 
thing with my hands. I turned to 
get it. 

But the slug was no longer on 
the floor; it had gotten Pirate, 
The cat was standing rigid, feet 
wide apart, and the slug was setr 



IStt 



G A L A Xc V SG IE N C E FICTION 



tling into place. I dived at Pirate 
and got him by his hind legs just 
as he made his first possessed 

movement. 

Handling a frenzied cat with 

bare hands is reckless at best; 
controlling one which is already 
controlled by a titan is impos- 
sible. Hands and arms being 
slashed by claws and teeth at 
every step, I hurried to the fire- 
place again. Despite Pirate's wails 

and struggles, I forced the slug 
against the coals and held it there, 
cat fur and my hands alike burn- 
ing, until the slug dropped off 
directly into the flames. Then I 
took Pirate out and laid him on 
the floor. He was no longer strug- 
gling. I made sure that he was 
no longer burning anywhere, and 
went back to Mary. 

She was still unconscious. I 
squatted down beside her and 
sobbed. 

AN hour later I had done what 
I could for Mary. Her hair 
was gone from the left side of 
her head and there were burns 
on shoulders and neck. But her 
pulse was strong, her respiration 
steady, though fast and light, and 
I did not judge that she would 
lose much body fluid. I dressed 
her burns — I keep a full stock of 
medical stuff out there in the 
country — and gave her an injec^ 
tion to make her sleep. Then I 
had time for Pirate. 



He was still where I had left 
him and he did not look good. 
He had gotten it much worse 
than Mary and probably flame 
in his lungs as well. He was ly- 
ing so still, I thought he was 
dead, but he lifted his head when 
1 touched him/ 

•'I'm sorry, old fellow," I whis- 
pered. I think I heard him mew. 

I did for him what I had done 
for Mary, except that I was 
afraid to give him a soporific. 
After that I went into the bath- 

room and looked myself over 

carefully. 

The car had stopped bleeding; 
I decided to ignore it. My hands 
were what bothered me. I stuck 
them under hot water and yelped, 
then dried them in the air blast 
and that hurt, too. I could not 
figure out how I could dress them, 
and, besides, I needed to use 
them. 

Finally I dumped about an 
ounce of the jelly for burns into 
each of a pair of plastic gloves 
and put them on. The stuff in- 
cluded a local anesthetic; that 
would help me get by. Then I 
went to the stereophone and 
called the village medical man. 
I explained what had happened 
and what 1 had done about it and 
asked him to please come up at 
©ncc. 

"At night?" he said. "You must 
be joking." 

I said that the hell I was. 



THE PUPPET MASTEIS 



\S9 



Hr answered. "Don't ask the 
impossible, man. Yours makes 
the fourth alarm in this county; 
nobody goes out at night. 1*11 
stop in and see your wife first 
thing in the morning, when it's 
safe." 

I told him where to go first 

thing in the morning and switched 

off. 

¥ 

Pirate died a little after mid- 



night. I buried him at once so 
that Mary would not see him. 
Digging hurt my hands, but he 
did not need a very big hole. 
I said good-by to him and came 
back in. Mary was resting qui- 
etly; I brought a chair to the 
bed and watched over her. Prob- 
ably I dozed from time to time; 

I can't be sure. 

— ROBKRT A. HF.INt.FI* 



Concluded Next Month 



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lean wrangler stepped out from benind 
a high boulder, six-shooter in a sun- 
tanned hand. 

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"You don't know it, but this is your last 
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